I’m often asked for advice on how to write about theatre. I would not call myself an expert and everything I have learnt so far is what I have learnt along the way. However I decided to compile a list of my top ten tips.
When I read back on my first review I cringe at my opinions, my writing style and everything in-inbetween, but it’s a process that you have to go through in order to develop your technique for writing. The more shows I have reviewed the more knowledge I have gained
Therefore my main advice to anyone who wants to pursue a career in writing about theatre is to see anything and everything. The only way to broaden your knowledge is to open your eyes to all types of theatre and generate a backlog in your mind of what works and what doesn’t. You may not think it but reviewing a Shakespeare play can be very beneficial to reviewing something completely on the other end of the spectrum like ballet. The Shakespeare play might teach you about emotion and giving a convincing performance, which is something that then becomes more evident to you when watching a ballet, as emotion is a huge part of dance.
Here are my top ten tips on writing about theatre…
1. HAVE A PASSION FOR THEATRE
Writing without passion is like cooking without ingredients, anyone can write, but critiquing theatre is something that requires both passion and knowledge. You have to be deeply fascinated by theatre in order to become immersed in it and be able to capture it in words.
2.LET YOURSELF GET CONSUMED BY THE SHOW
Many journalists and bloggers attend press nights therefore the reviews churned out the next morning are endless. There is only so much that can be written about a show so to make your review stand out look for hidden parts of the performance. Carefully watch the supporting actors and look for what they excel at, spot an effective transition or look intricately at the set to gain a different perspective.
3. BE HONEST
At the end of the day a review is a review, people read reviews in order to get an idea and an opinion of a show. If the general public can’t trust you opinion, ultimately they won’t read your reviews.
4.TALK ABOUT STAND OUT PERFORMERS
Whilst theatrical elements are a huge part of the show, the actors are the core of the production. It’s essential you write about the stand out performers in the show and the highlights of their performance, whether it is a song or a scene. Write in depth about how convincingly they portrayed their character.
5. TAKE NOTES
It’s very important to take notes during the show, I don’t normally write much but I always make sure my notebook and pen is in my hand so I can note down aspects of the show that wow me so when I go home to write my review I can be reminded to include them in my review.
6. LET YOURSELF BE CONSUMED BY THE SHOW
I write about theatre because I love it, when I see the show I don’t fully connect to it unless I am completely absorbed by it. It’s important to enjoy the show and then you’re able to capture all the elements of the performance.
7. DEVELOP YOUR OWN WRITING STYLE
This is something that doesn’t come instantly, you have to try different things out and see what works best for you. Soon you discover a structure to your reviews and this allows your reader to become familiar with your style. Regularity is also important, so you build up a following of readers who know what to expect from your reviews.
8. PUBLISH PROMPTLY
When invited to press nights it’s imperative you write and post your review promptly the following morning, the PR company that have invited you to the show will not be impressed if your review surfaces a few days later. It shows laziness and a lack of commitment on your behalf. Also if you don’t post your review at the same time as all the other websites and newspapers, no one will be interested in reading it.
9. BE CONSTRUCTIVE- LOOK FOR THE GOOD
No one wants to read a review that is just completely shunning a production. Even if a show is of poor quality I always like to mainly concentrate on the good before mentioning what didn’t work so well. Whilst it’s important to be honest, if you look closely there are always redeeming aspects of a performance.
10. PROOF READ
If you want your reviews to be taken seriously you need to make sure you keep it professional. It sounds obvious but it’s easy to make typos when it comes to the names of actors and making grammar errors. Check, check and double check!