THEATRE Writing reviews REVIEWS

Theatre Review Writing

Telling it as it is

A review should be a true record of what you have just experienced, not a report of what you have seen, know, read or been told.

What impression does it have on you and those around you? Who was involved with its production?

The first sentence should be dynamic and arrest the attention, not tell the reader what can be found in the programme such as where you are, who is putting on the production or how wonderful it is to be there.

The writing should flow and each sentence should be packed with information relevant to what you have just experienced, but not too long. Each paragraph should deal with different aspects of the experience. Full details of what you have seen should not be given as this will spoil the experience of a person going to see what you have seen. Always leave something to be experienced. Do not tell them everything you have seen.

Only write what is relevant and do not write words to make length. Do not try to be clever, your writing will show if you can write a review and give pleasure to those who read it. Aim for about 450 words.

Mention, when relevant, the people on stage and those who brought about what you have experienced. This will be the writer, composer, director, set designer, lighting designer, costume designer, choreographer, orchestra conductor, fight arranger, programme editor, stage crew, theatre staff, not just those on the stage before you, the actors, dancers or singers. Avoid a list of credits within the review, be creative and imaginative.

All associated with what you have experienced have to prove themselves by what they put before you, not their past successes and what you know of them. It is of no consequence that the play, ballet or opera is well known or that the actors are famous, it is what happens there and then.

After you have written the review add a short title which sums up the play. Giving a star rating is your opinion and may not be that of your fellow patrons.

Above all be honest, but fair, never vindictive or intentionally hurtful.

Everyone works differently, but try not to be influenced by what you have heard or read. Start with an open mind and no preconceived ideas or prejudices. The programme is for reference not to influence you or makeweight when writing.

People go to the theatre to see what is put before them which will influence them in some way. The memory may be long lasting or non recallable the next day. Everyone is affected differently. It is not up to you to influence them by what you write. You are reviewing what you have seen. Be impartial.

Remember your experiences start when you walk across the road to the theatre, what impression the theatre and the foyer had on you, did the displays and facilities impress you and did the interval facilities come up to your expectations. Were the seats comfortable and did you have enough legroom and above all could you see and hear. How well were you and your fellow patrons looked after by the staff. Were the staff ahead of the game, thinking of things before you had to ask them and before you arrived. Did you get press releases and photographs by e-mail? Did their team perform well?

You need to file your review within forty eight hours, if possible, not later than Saturday. It should be written in plain text on the first page of the e-mail, not sent as an attachment. Do not use smart quotes for apostrophes or inverted commas as strange things arrive at the other end.

People will pay money to watch what you have just experienced and it is your responsibility to see that they get value for their money. Mention ticket price concessions as these may encourage students and pensioners to visit the theatre. You may prefer to list all the cast and those associated with the show at the end of your review, but not intruding into it.

You are the reviewer. Tell it as it is.

Have fun and enjoy.

© BA

Support your local theatres and see a live show.


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