Industry insiders vote Guardian writers Michael Billington and Lyn Gardner top theatre critics in the UK
- Staff and agencies
- guardian.co.uk, Thursday 6 May 2010
Best in the business … Guardian theatre critics Lyn Gardner and Michael Billington. Photograph: David Levene/Sarah Lee
A survey by British entertainment industry bible the Stage has voted the Guardian’s two theatre critics the most valued in the business.
Michael Billington, who has reviewed for the paper since 1971, was voted the most read critic by Stage readers, as well as the most valued critical voice in the British theatre community. His deputy, Lyn Gardner, was rated second most valued critic, and third most read, while the Guardian’s theatre blog was also recommended as a source of trusted information.
Strikingly, despite the apparently inexorable rise of blogs and online discussion, Stage readers still rate the opinions of professional reviewer extremely highly: nine out of ten respondents (89%) agreed that critics still play a valuable role in theatre, and although half of those surveyed reckoned that critics were less influential than they used to be, 80% believe that critics will still be important in the industry in 10 years’ time.
The least trusted source by far, reports the Stage, was internet discussion: only 3% of respondents rated it their most valued source of opinion, while more than half said it was their least valued. Interestingly, though, word-of-mouth recommendations were most trusted (47%), narrowly beating newspaper critics (44%) – suggesting, perhaps, that social media has yet to catch up with real-life recommendations.
Websites dominate what the Stage dubs «recommended non-print critical sources». Listed alongside the Guardian theatre blog and Radio 4’s nightly arts programme Front Row are sites including the West End Whingers, whatsonstage and two individual blogs, Matt Trueman’s Carousel of Fantasies, and Andrew Haydon’s Postcards from the Gods.
This will no doubt be a boost for the West End Whingers in particular, who appear to have got under the skin of none other than Andrew Lloyd Webber when they dubbed his new musical Paint Never Dries (its official title is Love Never Dies). «What we really have to consider is all this stuff on the net,» Lloyd Webber told reporters on its opening night. «It’s a very worrying situation.»
The Stage survey was conducted online and via questionnaire, and included 346 responses.
Most read newspaper critics *
1 Michael Billington, Guardian (48%)
2 Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph (41%)
3 Lyn Gardner, Guardian (36%)
4 Benedict Nightingale, Times (33%)
5= Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard / Mark Shenton, Stage (both 31%)
*Respondents were allowed to make more than one choice
Most valued newspaper critics
1 Michael Billington (12%)
2 Lyn Gardner (11%)
3= Charles Spencer / Mark Shenton (8%)
5 Henry Hitchings (4%)