The chrisontheatre review of 2015

So with the excitement of the 2015 awards out of the way, there’s just time to look back at the most viewed pages on this blog. Usual technical caveat apply here: I am counting pageviews as determined by WordPress. The geeks amongst you will know that there is no 100% reliable way of distinguishing the real pageviews from the bots and spammers. But when comparing different pages of the same blog using the same tools it’s reasonably reliable.

Also be aware that articles published earlier in the year are at a slightly unfair advantage here as they have longer to build up stats that later articles (some articles build an audience over months or even years). I’ve also omitted the live coverage of the Edinburgh and Brighton fringes as that would have had lots of people returning to the page as and when it was updated.

Anyway, enough technical waffling, let’s skip a razzmatazz intro and get to the details, shall we?

Most viewed pages published in 2015:

There’s a lot of ways that new posts come to readers’ attention. Reviews and recommendations tend to get publicised by the acts concerned, especially if I’ve been complimentary about them. But the most viewed page of all was something I would never have guessed …

1) Don’t be afraid of an Edinburgh exodus: I wrote this halfway through the Edinburgh Fringe in (belated) response to Richard Herring’s decision not to take part in the Edinburgh Fringe this year. My view was that if big-name comedians choose not to take part, that’s not a bad thing, because it makes it easier for small-time performers to get started – and Richard Herring himself recognised himself that standing aside might give someone a chance. That post was picked up by Richard Herring himself on the day it was posted and tweeted to his massive Twitter following, and gave me my biggest daily viewing ever.

2) What’s worth watching: Edinburgh Fringe 2015: No surprises here. With my list of recommendations for the Edinburgh Fringe getting progressively larger as I get to know more good acts, more acts involved pick them up.

3) Lumiere 2015 preview: This had an unusually large readership. With Durham’s biannual light festival looming, I gave my picks of what I was looking forward to the most (and not just which installations were the most high-profile). That found its way on to an unofficial Lumiere page on Facebook and got shedloads of traffic.

Most viewed new post by category:

The Richard Herring piece was my most viewed comment piece, and the Edinburgh Fringe roundup was my most viewed preview piece. In other categories, the most viewed pages were:

Most viewed review – House of Usher: Much as all thespians like having their egos massaged (myself included), writing wonderful things about big-budget productions tends not to get much attention – they’ve got more than enough praise from newspaper reviews. Which is why the most appreciation comes from small-scale performers which get few or no reviews. House of Usher was the extreme case of a low-key student production at the Empty Shop. I very rarely bother watching student productions, let alone reviewing them, but this was such a bold production I felt it deserved a mention, and it seems words must have travelled through the DST grapevine very quickly.

Most viewed news story – Chris Monks quits Stephen Joseph Theatre after six years: I don’t do many stories in the “News” category, and most of them don’t get that much attention, but the ongoing puzzle over Chris Monks’s departure from The Stephen Joseph Theatre has been getting a steady stream of viewers ever since I wrote this. Still no further news as of today: no expansion on why he went, no news of a successor, and no clues as to where the Stephen Joseph Theatre goes from here. Only small development is that their fledgling revival of a new writing programme seems to be on hold indefinitely. Looks like it could be some time yet before we learn about the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s future.

Most viewed tips article – 13 questions to ask yourself before entering a playwriting competition. I’ve slightly cheated here, because I originally posted this in December 2014, and the post barely got any attention, until it got picked up by Playwriting UK in early 2015. I was a little surprised they picked this up, because Playwriting UK seem to usually act like the publicity arm for the playwriting competition business and take the line that all these opportunities are awesome – whilst my article was a lot more cynical about how playwriting competitions actually work. But I’m not going to argue – it got me a lot of viewers and I won’t complain.

Most viewed old posts:

As well as stuff I posted in 2015, there are a few posts from earlier years that still get a lot of traffic – some even more than 2015’s posts. And it’s sometimes thing’s I’d never guess, such as:

1) Absurd Person Singular: the most misunderstood Ayckbourn play?: This review from 2012 is, believe it or not, my most viewed article of all time, accounting for over 12% of my web traffic. Written when my blog has only just started, it was barely noticed at the time, and yet now it just keeps on getting more and more pageviews. All I can think is that this article, for some reason, is the #4 result in Google for “Absurd Person Singular Analysis” and English students are studying this as a set text. Since so many of you seem to want an analysis, I might write one some day. In the meantime, happy to be of help.

2) 10 common beginners’ mistakes in playwritingAnother blog post from my first year, this keeps getting a lot of attention. It was a list of the mistake I think get made the most often after years of watching disappointing fringe plays and reading lousy scripts. I’ve learnt a lot more about writing since then, but I think that list of ten remains unchanged. I expanded on the opinion play with another article this year about soapbox plays – I’m hoping to write another article about trying to be clever when i have the time.

3) Why devised theatre is hard: Another one of my early tips articles that just won’t go away. I don’t do devised theatre myself so I can’t really give advice on how it should be done, but I’ve seen a lot of devised theatre fail to work out and this article listed the reasons on how I think things most often go wrong. If it makes one group group stop and think before plunging into a project they haven’t fully thought through, maybe it’ll be worth it.

Other highlights:

At the start of the year, I suddenly got a lot of traffic for my review of Islands, sadly for the wrong reason. I saw it whilst it was previewing and under development, hence the early review, but when it got to London the reviews were not kind – and I fear much of my traffic was from people searching for reviews saying how bad it was. So I wrote an update as to how everyone needs to take risks and why writer/performer Caroline Horton deserves another chance. Islands went on to do substantially better at the Edinburgh Fringe, but that could be dangerous. It would be a tragedy if Horton carried on writing plays for a small niche of fans, because she has done a lot better than that before and she can do so again. Anyway, as I always say, we shall see.

This was also the first year that somebody gave me a veiled legal threat. I’ll refrain from naming the individual responsible (you know who you are), so instead I’ll give a link to this theatre blog with the story of a different legal threat. What I experienced was nothing compared to that horror story, but it was still an eye-opener as to how vulnerable people like me are to reprisals from people you direct relatively minor criticism to. Luckily, I’m pretty good at protecting myself with extensive fact-checking before I write anything – but I can’t help wondering if other people with similar criticisms self-censor for fear of the consequences of speaking out.

And that’s finally it from 2015. It’s going to be a quiet January 2016 when there’s not much theatre, but don’t go away, because I’ve got lots of goodies lined up for you. Until then, bye-bye now.

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