What next?

The final panel of the day looked to the future with Lyn Gardner (The Guardian) in the chair, critic Michael Coveney (What’s on Stage), Kerry Michael (Artistic Director, Theatre Royal Stratford East) and freelance critic and theatre journalist Matt Trueman.

Lyn Gardner set the agenda by placing us in “a transitional world where new digital tools are becoming available all the time and we are learning how to use them. The printing press didn’t do a great deal for the career of monks in their scriptoria but it is was revolutionary in the transmission of ideas.”

Where does the digital revolution take us? In The Guardian, the critic’s review starts the conversation which others carry on in a rolling culture of critical writing and debate. She argued that expertise is not limited to the paid reviewer and it is claimed that one in five people now writes about what they have seen. At the same time, there seems to be a change in what audiences want: they are looking for a theatre that is made with them, not just for them.

Matt Woolf saw the online developments as giving freedom from the news agenda and meant you answered to your readership and not the editor. Kerry Michael's theatre now has rows up in the circle where audience members are encouraged to tweet about the show. It may be something of an “if you can’t beat them join them" situation for older people but this is the young person’s world. His theatre invites writers in the blog zone to come in and see a show before the regular press night.

Matt Trueman was a passionate advocate of the online debate and, though Michael Coveney said he felt he was being “cast as the token dinosaur”, he is now the lead review for a web site.

This was a complex panel discussion which it is almost impossible to précis. Fortunately it, and the whole of this conference, is being made available online at theatreVOICE and you can catch it there.