Feature: HOW TO WRITE A REVIEW OF A THEATRE PERFORMANCE

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by Eve Meadows on June 4, 2019

in Extras,Theater-Regional

HOW TO WRITE A REVIEW
OF A THEATRE PERFORMANCE

Going to the theatre can be a magical experience, but writing a critical review of a theatre performance can be a challenge even for the most insightful and attentive theatre-goers. If you are interested in writing a critical review of a theatre performance, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind in order to ensure that the resulting review does more than just summarize the performance. In this article, we’ll take a look at the right way to review a theatre performance in order to ensure that you are making substantive and critical evaluations that highlight the deeper elements of a performance to get at the heart of the theatre experience.

Before we begin, it’s important to establish what we mean by “critical.” Yes, it’s true that criticism involves listing the faults in a production, but that doesn’t mean that a critical review should be inherently negative. Criticism also highlights the good and offers constructive suggestions for improvements that might make for a better performance. Therefore, don’t go to a performance with the attitude that you will take your poison pen and savage the performance by highlighting every problem or error. Your goal should be to fairly assess what you saw, good or bad, according to the merits.

Now that we’ve covered that, it’s time for a confession. There are no hard and fast rules for the “right” way to write a theatre review. Sure, standard writing guides can tell you about typical structure and a professional writing service has a format that it follows when a customer orders up a review. But a review is about your reactions and your feelings, and it isn’t possible to tell you that your feelings are wrong. However you choose to express them, as long as you are conveying your reactions to your audience clearly and honestly, there is no wrong way to do it.

A traditional theatre review found in a newspaper or magazine tends to follow a standard format: background on the production, a plot summary, a description of the staging, and an evaluation of the writing and acting. If you are writing for a newspaper or magazine, you will likely need to follow their specific writing guidelines. These types of reviews can easily be handled by a professional company that writes papers for students. But even in these formats there is a lot of room for personalization.

As you start to write, you should consider your critical voice. Who are you as a critic? What perspective do you write from? For example, a Marxist critic likely approaches a performance very differently from one whose primary focus is on acting talent. Develop your own voice and allow yourself to talk to your readers honestly. As long as you can convey your feelings clearly, you will produce a review worth reading. It’s easiest to convey strongly held feelings either positive or negative; it can be much more difficult to explain to your readers why a production was simply mediocre. That takes a little more skill to turn into an interesting piece of writing.

Some of the most interesting theatre criticism is less about describing the production than it is about using the production as a hook to explore a broader societal or cultural issue that connects to the play. This style of criticism is less traditional, but it can serve to highlight the most important themes in a production by connecting it to the broader culture that the production reflects.

As you prepare to write about a performance, you should be sure not to view it entirely in isolation. There is a broad world of theatre all around us, and you should attend many shows and experience the many varieties of theatre in order to understand how the performance you plan to review fits into current practices and trends.

Finally, you should be sure to have some fun with your review. If you don’t enjoy theatre and don’t enjoy thinking critically about what you’ve seen, then your review won’t be fun to read. Readers can detect forced writing and phony excitement from a mile away. As long as you convey the sense that you are an enthusiastic and passionate theatre fan, your audience will embrace your reviews.

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