Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Tips and advice about writing theatre reviews

Writing theatre reviews - Caittom Publishing
If you have a burning desire to write, and build up a portfolio to impress future employers or clients, have you considered writing theatre reviews?

There's nothing to stop you writing your own reviews and posting them to a blog you've created, but there are also lots of opportunities for budding writers with a love of theatre to write for a number of websites and publications.

The work is usually unpaid - but you can expect to get a free ticket and the opportunity to put your work in front of new readers.

When I was looking to move on from my first full-time job in journalism - which was with a weekly newspaper group in Leicestershire - I seized the chance to write theatre reviews for a free newspaper in Nottingham. It gave me the opportunity to find my writing style and see some great shows for free. The fact that I was so keen to write that I would take on unpaid work on my evenings off also impressed my next employer at interview and helped me land a great job.

If you want to submit theatre reviews to newspapers and websites, they will probably have their own style guidelines and they may ask you to write to word limit. Beyond that it's really up to you to talk about how the production made you feel, what worked for you and what didn't.

Reviews have been on my mind this week for two reasons. The first reason is that I am delighted to have joined the reviewing team of Downstage Centre - a new online network that promotes and supports local, regional and fringe theatre across the UK. The second reason is that in the course of researching another project, I've been lent some wonderful scrapbooks that were put together by the Principal of the former Burton School of Speech and Drama - and they contain a very mixed bag of memorable reviews (good and bad) from local newspapers in the 1950s.

We have probably all been entertained by 'bad' reviews of shows - and they can make productions unmissable. Lyn Gardner's review of White Christmas made it very clear what she thought, but at the same time fans of the show and its stars would not be deterred from buying tickets. Indeed, it's close to being sold out at the time of writing.

Critics, of course, often have a different view to the general public. When Les Miserables opened at the Barbican in 1985 it got a mixed reception. Some reviewers wrote it off as an unappealing misery-fest. It went on to become the world's longest-running musical and still plays to big audiences in the West End.

Here are my tips on theatre reviewing to help you get started:

  • A review is all about your personal opinions - but back them up with reasons. Don't just say something was brilliant, or awful, without explaining WHY you felt this way. 
  • Don't just re-hash the plot - and don't spoil the ending for people who've not yet seen it (although if you are reviewing Titanic or Jesus Christ Superstar it's a fair bet that people will know the outcome). 
  • Be honest. 
  • Have fun. If your review is entertaining, lively and opinionated there's every chance people will enjoy reading it.
If you are interested in becoming a reviewer for Downstage Centre, email pressoffice@downstagecentre.com for more information.

No comments:

Post a Comment