Over the past fortnight, there’s been a lively topic on the Forum concerning Jude Kelly’s Southbank Centre revival of The Wizard of Oz, with theatregoers who’d seen it during previews logging on to post their views on the production. The tide of largely negative opinion appeared to change dramatically last Monday (28 July 2008) with three raves posted by forum guests within six minutes.
Suspicious, one of our volunteer board moderators, Jenny Stavaeus, investigated and found that all three posts were from the same IP address. As Stavaeus explained – to a cheer of “busted” from another poster – “in the interest of honesty on this board, I\'d like to point out that it tracks back to the South Bank.”
A Southbank spokesperson told the Observer that three staff members had indeed posted the misleading comments - though had not done so under instruction from The Wizard of Oz producers – and that the matter was now being investigated.
At Whatsonstage.com, we’re aware that producers and other theatre staff regularly monitor Discussion Forum topics on their shows. And, in fact, we consider it a good thing that they take the views of our readers so seriously. Even when they go that step further and try to influence opinion, it is, in a way, flattering. But, even without IP tracking – or being quite as blatant as the Southbank staff - Forum regulars aren’t so easily fooled, and they’re quick to shout when they think they’re being manipulated. After the kerfuffle caused this time, we reckon producers will think twice before their next Forum posting.