The first 5 star review for Fringebiscuit 2012 was granted by yours truly to the incredible comedy blues band Jonny and the Baptists. I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm as I sent off my tweet-sized assessment straight after the show, but since then I’ve had time to consider whether I should’ve been more discerning (which, as a young writer on a training scheme, I’m naturally keen to seem). I‘ve concluded that even after a period of reflection I still wouldn’t knock a single star off my review. The band was awesome.
There’s been much discussion surrounding the star system in the Fringebiscuit flat and it seems to me that 1 star, 2 star and 5 star reviews are relatively easy to grant. In my mind 1 star is applicable when something is so hopelessly awful you want to walk out. 2 stars are given when something is still pretty dire but there are tiny flecks of gold hidden amongst the slurry. 5 star reviews are undeniably wonderful shows from performers firing on all cylinders. They burst outside their genre, and then some. They can be life-affirming, possibly even life-changing.
But 3 and 4 star reviews have been more problematic for us as a group. Before I joined fringebiscuit I regarded 3 stars as a bit of a slap in the face. To me, they suggested mediocrity. But I soon learned that that’s not what we mean here. 3 stars suggest a show is an excellent example of its genre. It can be a great show if you like that sort of thing, which naturally a lot of people will. A 4 star show is fantastic whether you like that sort of thing or not. I struggle slightly with that distinction between 3 and 4 stars.
It’ll be interesting to see how this evolves for the 10 of us as the festival continues. Will we grow more exhausted and jaded as the weeks go on and become harder to please? Or will we hone our grading skills so finely that it becomes effortless? Watch this space, and keep watching our Twitter feed.