Your main task, writing a review, is to inform the reader whether or not they should go to a show. You provide key details of the show so that, even if you personally found fault with it, the reader will still have enough evidence to make up their own mind. Sometimes, a critic hates a show so much – is even angry at having been presented with something so awful – that it becomes a pleasure to line up all these details and then dissect every single one of them. Occasionally, a critic will get carried away in this activity, and instead of a surgical dismantling, they offer a blunt, infuriated massacre – the hatchet job.
There comes a point, though, when you should also consider your responsibility to the performer. If they’ve got experience behind them, if they’re a professional, then there’s a sense they should know better, and so deserve whatever criticism they receive. If they make something tasteless or offensive, they can also be challenged on moral or ethical grounds. But if they tick none of these boxes, there is little benefit in deploying the hatchet, other than for the sadistic delight of both the reviewer and her bloodthirsty audience. It’s Christians-to-the-lions stuff. It can be entertaining, yes, but it’s needlessly cruel. Especially if the show’s badness left you feeling more depressed than angry.
To anyone who’s interested in going to this somewhat biographical theatre show because they have at least a passing interest in Bill Hicks: don’t. It's humourless, uncomfortable, misjudged and delivered with fatalistic resignation. That’s all I’ll say on the matter.
To the performer: you knew this was coming. You knew two journalists were in your audience, and you were fully aware that neither the dramatic sections nor the improv stand-up were gaining traction. You even offered to end the show early, more than once, though of course we couldn’t make that decision for you. Learn from this. Then put it behind you and come back stronger from it next year.