What you read in 2017

There’s one final thing to wind up from the year just gone – well, apart from all the reviews I still have to write – which is the annual roundup of what you read on this blog. Without further ado, let’s down to business.

Most popular new articles

Not counting regular articles such as the fringe coverage (which always gets loads of view for obvious reasons), here’s what got the most interest by category.

Mat Fraser as Richard IIIMost read comment piece: The most read comment piece was one I almost didn’t write. Even though I didn’t see Northern Broadsides’ Richard III, I wrote it because the use of a disabled actors in the titular role, I thought, was a very good idea. But I still shied away from writing this because, on the subject of providing opportunities to groups who are at a disadvantaged, I’m hesitant to tell other people what’s good for them. But I went ahead, being careful what I said, and it seems Northern Broadsides agreed because they publicised this and it got an unprecedented number of views.

I’m often sceptical of schemes to promote access from underrepresented groups (not because I’m against that, but because I often have doubts these schemes actually help), so the fact I said something positive for a change can be considered a ringing endorsement.

Most read new review: For once, it’s hard to tell what got the most views. The most read review article of a single play was Northern Broadsides’ Cyrano de Bergerac, which also happens to be the winner of both Best Adaptation and Best Production in my 2017 Awards just gone. However, I suspect the review that got read the most was of a London Fringe play Between a Man and a Woman. It’s hard to tell how many people specifically read this review as it was in an article with four others in a January Fringe roundup, but there was a huge spike in reviews after it got picked up on JamesArts’ social media, so I guess it was them.

(There is a wider pattern here. I’m starting to notice that – like my theatre-maker later ego – I get a lot more attention for reviews outside the north-east than inside. It could be a coincidence but I’m beginning to wonder. I have some theories, but they’re cynical. For now, make of that what you will.)

jdequocjwomblesMost read new news piece: Not done many news articles since I started Odds and Sods. Only one I wrote was Underground overground: what happens next? about Underground Venues’ move to the Old Clubhouse, asking what effect this would have at the Buxton Fringe, but that got a fair amount of interest. If you’re wondering what happened, I follows this up in the subsequent Buxton Fringe preview, with a result no-one predicted. It also marked the start of a long season of Womble jokes.

Most read new tips piece: Again, this doesn’t mean much, because I only wrote one tips article last year, but you’re welcome to read 15 (mainly off-message) tips about playwriting. That didn’t get much circulation because by writing this I probably pissed off everyone who might otherwise have posted it on Facebook or Twitter. But hey, now that Pantogate’s finished I need to annoy some more people, so feel free to read this now and get annoyed.

Most read articles written in earlier years

Most read old comment piece: Richard III might be my favourite comment piece of 2017, but the all-time most read comment piece is Why E4’s Stage School is all your faultThis year, it stayed the most read piece. Seems there’s a lot of haters of that TV show around, and, quite frankly, I don’t blame you.

Most read old review: Still Absurd Person Singular: The most misunderstood Ayckbourn play? I don’t know what it is about this article, but it still seems to be a hot favourite for, I’m guessing, hundreds of school pupils with essays to write. Pageviews have slightly tailed off from last year, but this one review still accounts for an insanely high propartion of my web traffic.

Paul RobinsonMost read old news piece: My two news stories about the change of Artistic Director at the Stephen Joseph Theatre attracted a lot of interest. Last year What does Paul Robinson mean for the Stephen Joseph Theatre? was my most read new news story and this year it was the most read old story. It’s only been this year where we’ve seen his own plays in action in Scarborough, but so far, so good.

Most read old tips piece: 10 common beginners’ mistakes in playwriting, written way back in 2012, continues to be my most read tips piece, but this year, it really took off after it got picked up by Papatango Theatre in the run-up to the playwriting competition. It’s funny that even though this article is over five years old now, and I’ve learnt a lot more about theatre, my views of these common mistakes when writing plays hasn’t changed.

And the most controversial article …

Unlike most viewed articles, I don’t have a controversy-meter on this blog, so there’s no objective answer here. I think there’s two times I managed to piss people off though.

The first time was in the final days of the Edinburgh Fringe where Fringepig did a reviewer-review of Paul Whitelaw, who acquired a lot of notoriety for given a lot of bad reviews to female comedians. I will say again it is not proven that the reason for these bad reviews was because they were female, but a lot of people thought he did. I wrote about this during my Edinburgh Fringe coverage (scroll to 26th August 3.30 p.m. and 28th August, 3.00 p.m. for the gory details), and I made an effort to be fair, leaving it to Fringepig and others to do the kicking. But, for some reason, within a couple of hours of me writing my bit, Paul Whitelaw responded, politely and reasonably at first, but swiftly escalating into a particularly classy response (to Fringpig) of “Basically fuck off you dismal shower of nasty, incompetent amateurs.” When I suggested this maybe wasn’t a wise response for a journalist, he blocked me. Last I heard, he’s not planning to return to Edinburgh (because cyberbullying), so this debate is now redundant, but I despair how people respond to relatively low-key criticism by digging themselves into  a deeper and deeper hole.

For the other contender for controversial article, I admit my fact-checking wasn’t up to its usual standards. After Times Square Panto began its performances after one star walked out amidst allegations of – amongst other things – actors not being paid, I wrote Pantodrome owes us an explanation, because I felt their response looked suspiciously evasive and corporate. I did, however, miss one important detail in the article, for which I must apologise, although on balance it didn’t make them look any better. Anyway, last Saturday I’d just about decided I’d been too harsh on Times Square Panto, when there was a walkout on the last day in protest over not being paid. To make it worse, the venue didn’t bother telling anyone the panto was cancelled other than a taped notice on the door. I will write about the fallout later, but, holy shit, I had no idea things were that bad.

I’m not sure what the moral of the story is, except maybe don’t keep digging yourself into a deeper hole.

So congratulations. We made it through 2017 with no Nuclear apocalypse. Let’s see if we can make it through 2018. Oh, and Kim Jong-Un, if you choose to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles, 10 Downing Street, the UK seat of government, is the big white building with those pillars in a circular arrangement, just east of the Atlantic Ocean. Bye now.

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