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Random Theatre Thoughts & Lyn Gardner: “I’m delighted that the blog has found a home at the Stage where it will reach a wide audience.”

Lyn Gardner

Lyn Gardner

I haven’t mentioned it much over the last couple of years but when all’s said and done I’m pretty keen on the output of Lyn Gardner. Sadly, theatre criticism is on the decline. Increasing numbers of aspiring arts journalists are writing for free on a long-term basis – with no end in sight. It doesn’t help that mainstream media’s obsession with celebrity and whacky politics has hijacked the discussion of the theatrical craft and process.

If we are honest, the thumbs up emoji is hardly a good indicator by which a member of the public can get to grips with the work that they are watching. As a direct consequence, the artists and cultural history to which they contribute are largely left out of the public discussion. (“Who is Laurence Olivier?” a student in one of my classes asked me recently.)

Nowadays, when we go and see a show it’s *mostly* in the context of no context and this has left little room for sensibility. The more we know about our artists, writers, directors and creatives, the more we appreciate their art. If we need better work on our stages then we need better audiences in our stalls. In a time of terror, the theatre takes on a significant social appeal. Society may be dividing and imploding from within but now, more than ever, it is not only a demonstration of courage but an engineer of it. I know theatre is not easy to get right. That’s why I get excited by the successes, find myself amazed by the triumphs, am dismayed by the fiascos and get angry with anyone who underestimates the medium and its enthusiasts so much that they exploit theatre by trying to get away with what they know is drivel.

Anyway, back in March, The Guardian cut its contract with theatre critic Lyn Gardner for 150 blogs a year. She will continue to write features and reviews. The reaction across the industry was one of regret and writers, directors and creative practitioners called for the decision to be reversed. They didn’t reverse the decision.

Fast forward 8 weeks and rather brilliantly, the Stage announced yesterday that Lyn will be joining the newspaper as associate editor. Gardner will also join the judging panels for The Stage’s numerous awards, namely The Stage 100, The Stage Awards and The Stage Debut Awards. This is fantastic; I think it will work well for both parties. At least The Stage has a business model that means they can pay for the journalism etc, etc and so on.

Today Lyn has been announced as a new Master on the MA Dramatic Writing at Drama Centre London at Central Saint Martins.

I caught up with Lyn and asked her how she was doing: “I was astonished and touched by the response of the theatre community to the axing of my contracted 150 blog contributions to the Guardian Stage online. So, I’m delighted that the blog has found a home at the Stage where it will reach a wide audience,” she tells me.

What’s the plan going forward? “I will be continuing to review and write for the Guardian which remains committed to quality theatre coverage, but it’s lovely to also have a new platform where I can think out loud about the challenges facing theatre and develop a dialogue with both the industry and theatre-goers,” she says.

So there we have it. ‘Journalism’.