The Cat Ass Trophy Goes To… Peter Peter Theatre Eater

16 Nov

Peter Tromp, the esteemed Cape Town theatre critic, is a dickless motherfucker. Wait… wait… I apologize, dear reader. It was not my intention to start like that. I have no research to back my opening statement. There is no proof that Peter Tromp, the esteemed Cape Town theatre critic, lives his life without a penis or that he had sexual intercourse with his mother. One can only speculate on such things. Unfounded accusations of genital mutilation and incest are better left to editors and publications that employ people like Peter Tromp, the esteemed Cape Town theatre critic.

So, let’s try again.

Peter Tromp, the infallible trend setter and scourge of bad theatre, who time and time again has answered the call to deliver critical analysis of why a show produced by people of a lower class than Mr Tromp, is worthy of his praise or condemnation and has shown himself to be an immovable object when it comes to his opinions, is in fact… a dickhead. (Perhaps that’s where his penis migrated to. Someone will have to research that.)

The reason for my umbrage towards Mr Tromp is due to an article that was published in “48Hours”, an arts magazine that carries the honour of employing Mr Tromp and sending him on noble crusades to shit on or praise other people’s work. This, of course, is part of the game. Theatre-makers have to endure the good reviews and the bad ones and if one does not ask “why” when you are granted a good review then the same goes when one receives a bad review. The article in question is Mr Tromp’s review of Nicholas Spagnoletti’s “Special Thanks to Guests from Afar”, the fourth play in Artscape’s 8th Spring Drama Season (an annual season dedicated to showcasing new writing.)  I was also part of this year’s season and my play “Champ” was the second in the season, after Amy Jephta’s “Other People’s Lives”. Mr Tromp did not review “Champ” and gave no indication of his immense dislike (spoiler alert!) of the play when he interviewed me for “48Hours”. I say interview, but what I mean is he e-mailed me a generic list of questions, which I answered and the exchange was published as an interview. The sub-heading even read “Peter Tromp spoke to Louis Viljoen…” Peter Tromp has never spoken to Louis Viljoen. Peter Tromp is too important to speak to a lowlife like Louis Viljoen.

But back to the article. In his glowing review of “Special Thanks to Guests from Afar” (a review the play richly deserves. Mr Spagnoletti is a very good writer and the actors were superb) Mr Tromp referred to my play, “Champ”, as a catastrophe and one of the reasons for the Artscape’s 8th Spring Drama Season being on the verge of dismal failure. He also included Ms Jephta’s work in that statement, but I will let her start her own fight with Mr Tromp. (And I suspect she will eviscerate him.) Granted, it is his opinion. He has every right to hate my work and I don’t hold it against him. “Champ” was not for everyone. As much as it irks me to say, Mr Tromp has been reviewing theatre for longer than I’ve been working in it, and he’s seen more theatre than I have, so his opinion comes not from the mind of a neophyte but from experience in watching theatre (that he never has to pay for) and he gets paid to give his opinions.

However, (ah, boy, here it comes.)

The reasons critics are paid are not only to give their opinions. They are expected to say whether a play is good or bad, but more than that, they need to qualify it. “The play is good because…” and “the play is bad because…” and so forth. You get the idea. Of course you do, because you’re not a moron. Mr Tromp’s unqualified statement that “Champ” is a catastrophe comes out of nowhere. He uses his hatred of the play as a forward for his review of someone else’s play, but draws little to no comparison between the two. It is not expected of him to compare Mr Spagnoletti’s play to mine, but he introduces the possibility of comparison without following it through. This would be acceptable if he was an unpaid commenter or a blogger (hey, that’s me) but as someone who I’m sure refers to himself as a critic and who would not write a word about any theatrical endeavour without attaching an invoice to the article, he is in dereliction  of duty as a writer for the arts.

Later in the review, Mr Tromp takes time to denigrate the work of Gabriella Pinto, a young playwright who has proven herself, one year out of UCT’s Drama School, as a prolific writer/director who is growing with every new play she produces. Ms Pinto was not part of the Spring Drama Season, but fell afoul of Mr Tromp for reasons that are unclear. He hated her play “Chickens” and he felt he should mention it in a review of “Special Thanks to Guests from Afar”. Again, he doesn’t qualify his statement. Firstly he insults Ms Pinto’s work without explaining why it so appalled him, then he lumps her in and somehow makes her seem implicit in the “catastrophes” that were “Champ” and “Other People’s Lives”, therefore lowering her work and her achievements by asserting his disapproval of her writing and that she exists in the same industry as me and Ms Jephta.

Why did Peter Tromp feel the need to vent his anger about other people’s work in a review that had nothing to do with those people’s work?  It can’t be his hatred of women (I’m a boy-man with no penis attached to my head). It can’t be inexperience (he is THE Peter Tromp, esteemed theatre critic).  It can’t be his personal feelings towards an industry that he doesn’t understand anymore (surely that would make him unemployable in his field). You know what it can be? Lazy fucking journalism. Lazy, unedited, frustrated and unqualified rants from a man who should know better.

And what makes my rant any different? I don’t get paid to insult Peter Tromp. I’ll do it for free.

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11 Responses to “The Cat Ass Trophy Goes To… Peter Peter Theatre Eater”

  1. Anonymous November 16, 2012 at 17:19 #

    Nice one. I have many times felt the desire to go to a reviewers house, knock on the door, wait for it to open, smile beautifully and then punch him in his smug, well-paid and cushy face. I think the two acts would be pretty similar. He’d get the same shock, the same pain, the same memory of pain and hopefully the same fear next time he writes some opinionated, snot-nosed bullshit tripe about the dreams of others. Fuck reviewers, they are truly less than rats and worms, content to feed off of the dreams of others – except for those rare few (I think I’ve met one but I’m not sure) who actually push themselves to say something worthwhile.

    • Anonymous November 16, 2012 at 17:22 #

      Milton Schorr above, not anonymous.

  2. Anonymous November 17, 2012 at 07:54 #

    I haven’t read that Special Thanks review yet but may I just say I LOVED Champ (the script, cast, direction, set, lighting) & am a big Viljoen fan. There. I’m going shopping.

  3. Allison Foat November 17, 2012 at 07:56 #

    Hey that wasn’t meant to be anonymous…the post posted itself before I got to add that it’s moi, Allison Foat. Diva. Hello 🙂

  4. Pieter Bosch Botha November 17, 2012 at 12:08 #

    I fully agree! Too often the weak and under-researched journalism of reviewers goes unnoticed. Its about time somebody reviewed the reviewer! Glad you had the guts. What irks me is how they spell names wrong, or mix up their facts…but what irks me the most of all, is when they can’t actually say just why they hated your play. I got slated in Die Burger once, (and it was also the only bad review of that particular show – the rest were all praise) and the critic wrote three short paragraphs in which she could not really say why she hated it. She picked at a few arb things…so it turns out she went into the show wanting to hate it. It’s about time someone spoke up. We have some excellent critics, but there are also a whole range out there who are useless and vindictive. We should be constructively uplifting new writers! It’s fucking brave to put your inner thoughts on paper and stage them, so this notion of wanting to destroy is rather sickening and it doesn’t do anything for the longevity of our BIZZness. PS I also really enjoyed CHAMP.

  5. Megan November 18, 2012 at 09:21 #

    Your argument is muddied by the personal. We can’t pretend that we have a theatre critic industry in Cape Town (or SA), and only the really mediocre ‘reviewers’ are prepared to accept the shit money for the crap jobs they do.

    • Pieter Bosch Botha November 26, 2012 at 15:05 #

      I disagree Megan. We do have a theatre critic industry in SA – there are people who come and critique our shows, most of them for a living, which constitutes an ‘industry’. The problem is that very often our critics lose the plot somewhere, or become too personal or judgemental. But, we do have quite a few very insightful, clued-up, impartial critics – but unfortunately those critics most often only review the work of the “high profile” industry elite. I think Louis has an extremely valid point, exposing the fact that some critics pass comment without backing up why they feel the way they do. That is cowardly and it makes them look like an idiot. If you don’t like the work, say why, and then the artist can decide how to take it on board, if they feel like taking it on board at all. I think the conversation between critic and artist is so exciting, and it happens on a public platform, but if the conversation isn’t founded on anything then it can’t go anywhere…and then it becomes an unintelligent waste of a flippant comment which leads to no artistic debate whatsoever.

  6. Megan November 18, 2012 at 09:23 #

    Oh, and I am sorry I missed Champ. It sounds like I would have loved it and I am sorry I didn’t make enough of an effort to get to it. I have been removed from Artscape’s invite list for writing something horrible about one of their New Writing productions last year.

  7. Lezanne November 19, 2012 at 09:57 #

    I too loved Champ. Wildly entertaining. well written, brilliantly acted. I don’t anything about theatre, but theatre is made for the masses, the uneducated (about theatre), the not so select few, i presume, as those are the people who will pay to go and experience something that they will hope to enjoy. Let’s hope that ‘the masses’ will learn to less listen to a critics point of view and rather go and see for themselves.

  8. guy December 2, 2012 at 13:17 #

    The Cape Town ‘theatre’ scene. A suffocating provincial affiliation of stupidity that parades mediocrity as high skill and venality as a career move. Snug and safe in it’s own inferiority.

  9. johann December 3, 2012 at 16:20 #

    Reviewing serves its purposes I suppose….. but it shouldn’t be mistaken for proper criticism ie THOUGHTFUL work that explores cultural endeavors and grapples with history, trends, ideas, formal developments in the arts and the relationship of the arts to the broader culture. If ‘professional critics’ really are the ‘experts’ they’re supposed to be, then they must offer more on this front than just a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’, (or in Tromp’s case, his thumb up his arse.)Who made him the arbiter of taste?

    Apologies – I didn’t mean to use the words ‘thumb’, ‘up’, ‘arse’ and ‘taste’ all in the same paragraph.

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