There was a time when their editor assigned newspaper critics a play; he or she would attend the play and rush back to the office late at night and write it up, fighting a deadline for the backroom boys to print. The deadline met, it would hit the streets the next morning. A theatre manager would buy copies of all the newspapers and read them in fearful anticipation of whether the reviews were going to bring the play down and bankrupt him or make him a fortune. It was a way of theatre life. Such was the power of some critics – and some exercised that power with smug glee. They were hated by management, and admired by the public – read and quoted. Their approval launched careers and determined the success of a play.
Fiona Chisholm lived in that world, albeit a by-gone era, a quaint piece of theatre history. From a girl racing to the office close to midnight to type up her crit., Fiona ascended the lofty heights to being an Arts Editor herself for the Cape Argus.
Fiona is also one of three daughters of an extraordinary man of music, Erik Chisholm, a prolific composer who gave his name to the Recital Room at the College of Music UCT. While this interview gives insights into the role of the theatre critic, pre the digital age, she also talks about her father and the enormous legacy he left South Africa.