Journeys – REVIEW

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The square canvases of Claire Wiltsher’s work accentuate the dimensions of the dramatic global scenery she captures with oil paint and mixed media.  Materials collected on her worldwide journeys are incorporated into some of the pieces to generate a 3 dimensional experience when viewed from a distance.  In exciting abstract pieces, such as ‘Spatial risks’, concentric layers of paint circle outwards to represent the dizzying dynamics of large buildings.  Circumnavigating the spherical O3 gallery, destinations such as Cuba, Belize and Kathmandu are embraced.  ‘Isolation’ and ‘Structure’ depict landscapes closer to home in the format of a small square canvas.  The Artist frequently chooses colour tones that successfully tell the story of each location.  Vivid blue hues draw down the New Zealand sky and ocean in ‘Phenomenon’. There is a feeling that the fired earth tones of Australia have been lifted from the land and onto the paintbrush in ‘Shipwrecked’.  The image of the penetrating white Mediterranean sunlight breaking down the architectural lines normally visible to the naked eye is captured in ‘Translation’; a composition of an Egyptian side street.  Oil impasto is built up to embrace the colour and energy of Nepal in ‘Memento’.  ‘Alluring Light’ of Cuba shines with gold tones and mixed media.  In contrast, other works are pure oil paintings that are notable for their predominant grey colour such as the English ‘Seascape’.  The techniques Wiltsher has honed may inspire the budding Artist to liquidate all assets, pursue global journeys and experience the colours shining through these 20 paintings.  ‘Journeys’ is certainly an exhibition to make your feet itch!

 

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Forgotten Voices – REVIEW

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Strangers meet over coffee in a lobby after giving interviews of their experiences of World War I in this 90 minute performance that embraces the suffering inflicted on the survivors of man’s bloodiest conflict to date.  Kitty, widowed early in life, loses the capacity to fall in love again, ‘It was all over for me.’  Colourful anecdotes of working in munitions factories where the yellow powder taints the girls’ skin yellow are told.  The ‘bevvy of beauties’ being so proud of the men at the front, push white feathers into the palms of ‘conchies’.  It is the domestic details that pull hardest on the heartstrings.  During a Music Hall number, the chanteuse starts marching around the room as everyone follows, but pauses before putting a hand on Kitty’s husband’s shoulder.  The men are lead towards a recruitment table and given the King’s shilling.  After Kitty’s husband’s brief 6 days leave he shares his fear with a relative that he may not return.  Belinda Lang plays Kitty with a soft, powerful humanity.  Matthew Kelly plays jocular Private Harris, who eventually lands a bit of luck when a piece of shrapnel lodges in his kneecap.  The hierarchy of the military is imbued in the blood of its personnel.  Harris addresses the next veteran to join the room as Sergeant, ‘I knew by looking at you.’  The well mannered reserve of the Officer who sits quietly in the corner is maintained for most of the performance.  Finally the Officer breaks down and states the unbearable truth that in 3 years the troops advanced just 8 miles and in one of his final manoeuvres he is told to flee that same ground for his life.
Towards the latter part of this social gathering, an American GI joins the group.  As Harris has it, ‘We were waiting for you!’  This new member builds on the healing potential of the reminiscence and it is patently obvious how therapeutic nostalgia can be.  The Yank tells his own tale of a Nation not knowing what they have signed up for, ready to join a fight at ground level but unprepared for trench warfare.  His unit starts off with soldiers 5 paces apart and ends the day with 100 yards separating the soldiers.  Such is the unimaginable devastation.  Cast members Steven Crossley, Rupert Frazer and Tim Woodward impeccably generate the voices of true soldiers continually evaluating life in terms of courage.  To date only three veterans live to tell their tale of the First World War.  This well-written play by director Malcolm McKay is an adaptation of Historian Max Arthur’s anthology of interviews of WWI veterans.  As a piece of theatre, the audience is a bystander in a lobby area where these reminiscences are being spoken.  The play may not overwhelm you as a graphic re-enactment of the brutal scenes surely would, but the sensitive way in which these stories are told penetrates the psyche and is highly emotive.
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PASSION !

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lunchtime review idea
On the site of Oxford Castle’s medieval Chapel, ‘Passion’ is performed telling the tale of Christ’s last days on earth. All that remains now of St George’s Chapel is the underground crypt that lies beneath the outdoor stage, supporting the show’s exuberant spirit that strengthens any faith you may have walked into the space with.  The four Gospels, as recently translated by Nicholas King SJ, are dramatised in the Passion Play, a format used originally to educate the masses about the content of the Bible. Vibrant pageants include the opening scene of Jesus throwing the money lenders out of the temple and later shielding an adulterer from being stoned, offering the advice ‘If I were you I wouldn’t want to go through that again’.  Lizzie Hopley’s comfortably humorous script accentuates the human emotions the Biblical characters face in this modern interpretation.  Mary Mother of Jesus (Caroline Devlin) wrings out every last shred of pain as she struggles to accept the unstoppable tragedy facing her only son.  Since the 13th Century, staging of these pageants draws on the talents of often hundreds of local people, making the Passion Play one of the earliest examples of community theatre.  Local Designers Lucy Wilkinson and Abby Price texture the stage with a rural finish, craft enthralling masks for the choir and source gnarled bare branches for the minimal props.  Aidan Treays’ stirring choreography makes for menacing crowd scenes, from the choir dressed in earthy tones of soil, a substance ritually spread over areas in need of purification.  The swathes of dangerous, decadent red scarves initially draped over the crowd are later swapped for pure pacified white scarves, matching the white of Jesus’ collarless shirt.  Wearing everyman clothes, Jesus offers the message that no one should get in the way of true peace as white flags are flown. However in spite of the many dazzling miracles staged to entertain the audience, the scarves do not stay white for long.
Director Charlotte Conquest and indeed the whole Creation Crew, the FOH Team lead by David Edwards, deserve an ovation for delivering a third quality show in one inclement Summer.  The unseasonal weather offers atmosphere to the text.  The sun beams a spotlight on the searing solo of the Angel of Death (Dami Olukaya) as the performance begins with the Passion people promenading in the castle courtyard.  As the Angel plays the role of Guardian Angel Gabrielle to Jesus during the show, a cold grey wind rattles when she drives the Saviour to accept his destiny. Strain is placed on the love the Disciples feel for Jesus as he appears to be just letting his crucifixion happen.  Judas stresses about the political advantages the Messiah is letting slip away from the group. But Jesus stresses ‘this is not a rebellion that is won with weapons’.  Mary Magdalen takes us on the longest emotional journey. Movingly, this woman with a colourful past is excluded from being accepted into the temple.  The actress brings an informed richness to the text and is herself an ordained minister.  Life enhancing lessons are offered for committed non-believers in equal measure.  The value of faith itself is shown by Peter, he briefly falters in his belief half way through his journey walking over water. He falls in.  The power of the show comes from the bloody crucifixion scene and the inevitable return of the red scarves. With their leader no longer present on earth, Mary Magdalen (Natalie Garrett) draws us almost to help her pray as she struggles to love and forgive.  In returning from the dead, Jesus is unflinching in his parting shot, as he instructs his troops to ‘fish for your lives’.  A subtle realisation that the word ‘Jesus’ has been barely uttered pays off in the final moments.  As Peter, played with strong integrity by Tim Crowther, asks of the leader, ‘what do we call you?’ The response is, ‘I’ll leave that up to you!’ Whatever name you assign to the spiritual source, Tom Peters is a good match as Jesus and inspires meaning in Peter Lole’s rousing musical finale of ‘Kyrie eleison’!
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Equestrian Art

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horse theatre

Monday Lunch time review…

Paintings by Neil Cawthorne and Barrie Linklater capture the dynamic speed of horses in motion whilst detailing the fine musculature of the equine species.  Scaled up sculptures by Lorne McKean portray man’s best friend such as ‘Lillie’ the Bulldog and ‘Boris’ the charismatic Great Dane. The swirling surfaces McKean finishes her sculptures with give an inner life to the subjects that greet the visitor with beady canine eyes. All work in this compact show successfully captures the essence of country life.  A hot hazy mist surrounds Linklater’s ‘A Summer Morning in the Glover’ and a steamy aura of body heat radiates off the racehorses in Cawthorne’s ‘After the Last’.  The quality of composition in the paintings is well structured particularly in Cawthorne’s ‘The Passing Storm’ as the fresh scent of new rain is palpable. Cawthorne depicts hunt scenes majestically conveying the even rhythm of the movement of the dogs in ‘Away’ and the posture of a natural leader in ‘The Huntsman’.  The entrance to the gallery displays McKean’s tall, lean sculpture of the Duke of Edinburgh executing a polo manoeuvre that adds to the regal tone of this display of fine equestrian art.  As Linklater describes the horse in the title of a painting exploring the mystery of this much-celebrated beast, here is ‘A Creature Born of Fire and Air’.

 

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Find the Fun in making your writing SHINE!

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review tips

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I love writing.

Don’t you?

Getting all your thoughts down on paper and out of your head.

No one to say what’s right or wrong

(shut up inner critic now !)

No one to tell you even what to write.

You can be your true self.  You can honour your feelings.

You can be that rebel.  You can try out a new you.

It’s all about you.

What’s not to like?

Ah.  Just one thing.

The editing, the re writing, the structuring..

The call-it-what-you-will thing that you do to make your page of writing make the best sense.

This is when things can lose the fun and I don’t what that to happen to you.

The stream is flowing so let’s not turn it into a trickle!

Let’s keep that stop cock on.

What’s your big idea?  Your mojo?

Be clear on this before you go at your writing with your editors head on.

When you clean up your writing to make it shine remember you are only doing a bit of polishing.

Or light dusting.

Just to make it slide easier into the hands of your reader.

Be sure you do not smash your big idea, your unique take.

This is your gold.

So after a stream of paragraph writing which we have now done in the previous sections.

(We should be looking at 3 paragraphs on the page so far.)

Use these ideas below as a fun system to make them look professional and generally fabulous.

Basically if something is not fun we tend not to do it I find.

So think of this like an Instagram filter on your selfie .. designed to make your work look its best self.

  • We take out weak words to sound strong.
  • We check through grammar.
  • We swap out words that are used more than once.
  • We break long sentences into two.
  • We double check all facts and details.

And this won’t take long.

And it will make a massive difference to how people react to your work.

And YOU deserve that !

Let’s go.

‘Simple subedits

Make your work shine.

Simple subedits

tell your genius it’s time!’

 

1 Take out weak words

Too many flabby words that slow readers down mean they may not make it right down to the bottom.

Readers are used to scanning the internet for what they want.

Some words keep people reading faster than others.

Use this guide to cut out words that may not flow well (look out for repeating the same word too often).

This list may also inspire you to chose a few different words to make the review easier to read.

Hot words –

Fast Easy Quick Simple

 

Power up your page and  scrutinize your writing.  You want to stand out and not weaken your idea.

Certain words and phrases are so commonplace your reader is blind to them like ‘your’ ‘and’ ‘my’ ‘the’.   If you are short of space and you can make sense without these words they can go.

Some weak words you can do without –

  • About –Use “approximately” or a range: Fifteen to twenty people attended.
  • Absolutely essential – Redundant phrase. You don’t need absolutely. Booking is essential
  • Add an additional – Redundant phrase. You don’t need an additional. Ex: They added an additional chorus. Better: They added a chorus.
  • All of – Flabby expression. Drop of. Ex: All of the costumes sparkled. Better: All the costumes sparkled.
  • Anonymous stranger – Redundant phrase. You don’t need anonymous. Ex: The last act introduced an anonymous cast to the plot. Better:The last act introduced a stranger to the plot.
  • Armed gunman – Redundant phrase. You don’t need armed. Ex: Armed gunmen are dropped onto the stage. Better: Gunmen are dropped onto the stage. 
  • As being – Flabby expression. You don’t need being. Ex: The playwright is known as being an expert on translations. Better: The playwright is known as an expert on translations.
  • As far as I’m concerned – Empty Phrase. Don’t use it. Ex: As far as I’m concerned, all comedians are nervous before a show. Better: All comedians are nervous before a show.
  • At this point in time – Empty Phrase. Don’t use or fix. Ex: At this point in time, the director is a world expert on musicals. Better: The director is a world expert on musicals.
  • Bald-headed – Redundant phrase. You don’t need headed. Ex: The character was bald-headed. Better: The character was bald.
  • Blend together – Redundant phrase. You don’t need together. Ex: The lighting colors blend together nicely. Better: The lighting colors blend nicely.
  • Cameo appearance – Redundant phrase. You don’t need appearance. Ex: The actor’s cameo appearance caused a riot. Better: The actor’s cameo caused a riot.
  • Crisis situation – Redundant phrase. You don’t need situation. Ex: In the crisis situation the lead character tried to relax and think clearly. Better: In the crisis the lead character tried to relax and think clearly.
  • Current trend – Redundant phrase. You don’t need current. Ex: Some say absurd theatre is a current trend that won’t last. Better: Some say absurd theatre is a trend that won’t last.
  • Descend down – Redundant phrase. You don’t need down. Ex: After the murder the heroine descended down the steps to exit the building. Better: After the murder the heroine descended the steps to exit the building.
  • Emergency situation – Redundant phrase. You don’t need Ex: The plot is based on an emergency situation at a hospital. Better: The plot is based on an emergency at a hospital.
  • Enter in – Redundant phrase. You don’t need Ex: The designer lets the viewer enter in an enchanted forest. Better: The designer lets the viewer enter an enchanted forest.
  • Equal to one another – Redundant phrase. You don’t need to one another. Ex: The two guitarists are equal to one another in talent. Better: The two guitarists are equal in talent.
  • Final conclusion – Redundant phrase. You don’t need final. Ex: He came to a final conclusion that he hated his job. Better: He came to a conclusion that he hated his job. Best: He concluded that he hated his job.
  • Finally – Weak linking term. Be more precise. Ex: Finally, the actor got the job done. Better: After five attempts, the actor got the job done.
  • Fly/flew through the air – Redundant phrase. You don’t need through the air. Ex: The trapeze artist flew through the air above us. Better: The trapeze artist flew above us.
  • Frequently – Imprecise Phrase. Use something more specific. Ex: The dancers frequently change costumes. Better: The dancers change costumes for every new song.
  • Give in – Weak phrasal verb. Use concede, or quit. Ex: The main character does not give in. Better: The main character does not quit.
  • Join together – Redundant phrase. You don’t need Ex: The two trapeze artists join together as one. Better: The two trapeze artists join as one.
  • Joint collaboration – Redundant phrase. You don’t need Ex: The joint collaboration between writer and musician is a success. Better: The collaboration between writer and musician is a success.
  • Most unique – Redundant phrase. You don’t need Ex: The music is most unique. Better: The music is unique.
  • Not honest – Avoid using negative constructions if possible. Try to say what something is instead. Ex: The main character is not honest. Better: The main character is dishonest.
  • Passing fad – Redundant phrase. You don’t need Ex: Having the house lights on during a dance show is a passing fad. Better: Having the house lights on during a dance show is a fad.
  • Pick up on – Flabby phrase. Use notice, or sense Ex: He didn’t pick up on the subtle nuances. Better: He didn’t notice the subtle nuances.
  • Present time – Redundant phrase. You don’t need Ex: The lead actor is not available at the present time. Better: The lead actor is not available at present.
  • Start off/out – Redundant phrase. You don’t need off/out. Ex: Let me start off by saying this show is world class. Better: Let me start by saying this show is world class.
  • Surrounded on all sides – Redundant phrase. You don’t need on all sides. Ex: The hero was surrounded on all sides by enemies. Better: The hero was surrounded by enemies.
  • Very – Flabby modifier. Use a stronger word that very is modifying. Ex: I was very scared when he pulled out a dagger. Better: I was petrified when he pulled out a dagger.
  • When it comes to – Flabby phrase. Use when, with or delete the phrase instead. Ex: When it comes to casting Shakespeare, you must choose actors wisely. Better: When casting Shakespeare, you must choose actors wisely.
  • You’re going to – Flabby phrase. Use you’ll instead. Ex: You’re going to love this play. Better: You’ll love this play.

 

2 Grammar Check

Make it easy by finding out your favourite online resource to help with this.

Try out these –

http://www.kokedit.com/ckb.php

http://grammar.about.com/

http://www.grammarphobia.com

http://www.copyediting.com/home

And of course Word has an amazing ability to flag up grammar that isn’t working out on a document.

Check the tense is the same all the way through the review

Check the verb ending agrees with the noun

The theatre curtains close (not closes) to mark a dramatic ending

To give your review the best dramatic impact avoid the passive voice and give every object an action.

The lead actor falls into the gutter and keeps dancing

Is better for an impact on the reader, taking them to experience the show other than

The gutter is dived into by the lead actor.

Make the subject act on the verb.

Make your verbs stronger by spotting ‘very’ and ‘really’ and taking them out and finding a better verb.

The last fixes are the easiest –

 

3 We need to remove words that are being used more than once

Use a thesaurus if you find that words like ‘nice’ ‘good’ ‘excellent’ ‘brilliant’ are being used more than once.

You will be surprised what interesting choices you can use instead.

 

4 Cut long sentences in two

We need to break long sentences into two so readers do not have to struggle to take in the information.

If paragraphs are just made of one long sentence see how you can break this up with semi colons ; this is a great way of making sense and not breaking your flow.

Make sure every sentence has a subject verb and noun.

 

5 We need to double check all the facts and details.

Remember one tip is – if in doubt leave it out.

If you are not 100% sure a fact is true than don’t use it.

This will create trust between you and the reader.

Feel free to cut out information that is not needed or does not support your review.

 

Discover more posts about putting more fun into your life here

 

Find out more about writing your unique review today in an easy fill in the blanks style go here for a complimentary blueprint to help you find the words to express what’s in your heart today !

Interval Notes

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review tips

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Recently my local theatre has had a face lift.  The seats are now multi coloured and the art deco doors have a face lift.  A new portrait needs to be created.  I show how I create mine using words that then review the shows that go on inside there.  I have reviewed over 200 shows at the Oxford Playhouse and beyond.

Other posts about portraits are here

Guide to Painting the portrait of a show

Mark the competency of what you are seeing during the performance as best you can while you watch the show.

One tip is not to send out mixed messages.  Where possible only describe things you have a clear opinion about (even if your reaction is luke warm).  Try to group the positive aspects together so it gives the reader an easy read and the article has a good flow.

This plan lets you organise your review so it has nice neat structure that the reader can scan through.

If you’ve seen something amazing that you would like to share with other people then writing a review is a great way to make the performance live on. You’ve got the review as a souvenir to show you what a great time you had too. Of course this is going to be very useful to people who are going to spend money on a night out decide if it’s their kind of thing.

 

Here’s some ideas on how to look for what’s useful feedback

The sort of things you want to include is the times and dates when it’s performed,

any amazing stars that are going be in it; is it a world premier or does it go on to a major city afterwards? Add any interesting stories about the cast and perhaps a little summary of the actual story of the plot – try not to give away any super important spoilers towards the end because very often people would rather get their full money’s worth and experience that with everyone else in the audience live.

 

In a lot of arts festivals there will be over 3000 shows to see, as a customer it is hard to see which ones will entertain. So your review would be great in this situation.

 

At a recent festival I noticed there is very mixed reviews for a lot of shows telling conflicting advice. Listening to people in queues talk about what they have enjoyed and what they haven’t enjoyed explains this. Of course we are all different so we are all going to like different things and I realise that this is why

more reviews on any show is important. If a show has been reviewed 10 times your review is still important. Your honest review telling readers what you really think is vital.

 

I see this in everyday life too. I was going to a restaurant I hadn’t been to before and I looked at reviews online and they went from 1 star to 5 star on tripadvisor with some huge feelings being expressed. So it just shows that it’s not one size fits all.

 

Your review is also going to help the groups of performers. Listening to some of the groups who are doing their marketing during the festival by giving out flyers I can tell for some of them if they don’t get reviewed there is a lot of hard work that hasn’t paid off. This is crucial as they do have the chance of transferring their shows to London if it does very well.

 

One group explains the situation on their social media –

 

Next time we have a London transfer of an extraordinary form-breaking fusion of street dance and circus telling a classic story through the lens of contemporary multicultural Britain, after a sell-out UK tour and prior to a world tour, remind me to put Nicole Kidman in it so we actually stand a chance of getting some reviewers along. I’ll have her in feathers standing centre stage and everyone else can just backflip around her.

 

 

So by bringing the show into the media and making it come to the attention of the world with the internet means everyone can search for the show and find out if the performance is their cup of tea. Writing your review is such a great service I wanted to share with you the fact that your theatre needs you. Remember theatre is not owned by anybody, it’s there for everybody.

 

There is another kind of feedback thought that may not be helpful. I was talking to somebody about a review I was writing and they were very negative about it and almost talking me out of it being a little over critical so I’m not sure if feedback always counts if your heart has been set on something.

 

So it is fair to say that giving a balanced view is good and there are some situations which can get one sided and then perhaps the feedback is not so great.

I hope you’re off to see some great theatre and if you do I’d love you to share it by commenting on these aspects of the performance listed below.

 

Another reason why reviewing and rating something is important is you are seeing the things the audience cannot by being objective. Great costume and set designs do not stand out and are typically not noticed because they are part of the story telling. By taking a check list in and making comments on each of the story telling elements as you watch the show the reader is given things to look out for and appreciate the value of when they eventually ship up and buy a ticket to see the show.

 

So you are literally putting power on the page

To make your views stand out check through these sub edit tips for clean langauge

Weak adjectives take the strength from your writing. Use the best adjectives possible

  • Really bad – Terrible (better)
  • Really good – Great (better)
  • Very big – Huge (better)
  • Very beautiful – Gorgeous (better)

 

Even worse than using weak adjectives is giving your verdict using a negative:

  • It’s not that good – It’s terrible (better)
  • He’s not a bore – He’s hilarious (better)

 

During the interval or in your notebook mark down your responses to what is standing out for you –

  • What could you see on the stage when you went into the theatre ?

 

  • What music was playing as you took your seat?

 

Now tap into what you appreciated in the show –

What did you enjoy?

 

Feel in to and check what you are enjoying – what made you feel this way? Take your answer from what is happening on stage –

Feel free to add and choose your own values to this list ..

but try these to start off with!

 

What made you laugh out loud?

 

What did you see potential in?

 

What idea was clearly well developed in the story?

 

What in the performance was well rehearsed?

 

What part of the set was well crafted?

 

What skill in the actors/actresses was well honed?

 

From hearing the script, what words or ideas left you with food for thought?

 

What came as a surprise?

 

 

After seeing the show what inspired you to take further action in a particular cause?

 

Did anything shift or challenge your belief system?

 

As the show ended what feelings were you left with?

 

What do you know now that you did not know before?

 

What do you now have a deeper interest in or want to find out more about?

 

What in the show would you like to see again?

 

What would bring you back to see work by this company again?

 

What during the show was worth the price of the ticket?

 

Did you spot any subtle, softer qualities that could have been missed by some of the audience?

 

Did you see any colours in the lighting that gave you a particular feeling?

 

What part of the show was in your face and very bold?

 

What part of the performance could you not ignore?

 

Was there one thing that got the biggest reaction?

 

Which actor/actress stood out and for what reason?

 

Did the actors/actresses work well together as an ensemble?

 

How would you describe the applause at the end, was there an ovation?

 

Was there an encore?

 

 

For sure you don’t need to answer all these! It will depend on the show which ones pop out for you. Go with the responses that are useful then turn these into sentences and bam your paragraph on your evaluation of the performance is all done and dust.

 

So good for you !

Rant ! Call to Action ! Theatre needs you ;-)

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review tips

So what if three people in London don’t like your play.

Or your Art.

Or your dance.

Well it does matter if those 3 people are the key writers for the main newspaper theatre blogs and that is all anybody ever reads and then nobody comes to your show and the play that you’ve just spent a year writing and producing is not likely to go any further. I’ve been with a cast of a new company that got on star on their opening night from a national newspaper. It was an ambitious experimental work. They did what they were believing in. They had a 6 week run ahead of them that failed abysmally. Which is sad because there was quality in their work.

That is why I don’t think any art is bad or good. There will be somebody who appreciates it and of course there will be others who it leaves cold and it will not be for them but if the people who it leaves cold are the 3 major critics of London then your career is as much as over because that show that you may have invested 50,000 pounds (average for a 6 week costumed London Fringe run) in doing may be the one stab you’ve got of your whole career. There often isn’t the personal resources to play at that level again.

And of course it sticks with you but if after that one star review a few people in the audience who quite liked it a little bit or saw something that was valuable to them even if they gave it one star still explained why it was important to them, why they had sat through the whole thing then perhaps another person comes to see it and then another and it finds its audience.

Its incredibly sad for artists when their pieces of work are stopped from finding an audience and if you are a writer then it is beneficial to you to write an honest review of other shows.  And it’s not giving someone a leg up at your expense by saying oh this person is brilliant and therefore I am not, no; it’s widening the gap for more people to come to enjoy that art form.  And it may not be directly related to your work. It might be art and you might be a theatre writer well art connects to props and it connects to styles of delivery and it is important we keep expanding and realising not everybody has the same tastes.

Circus done in a morning presentation of a story of biblical proportions might be overstretching the genre for some and for others it might be an irony it might be triggering something that was really important that came back to their memory and gave them a lot of value.It’s horses for courses. And It’s just not a good way to move forward for any industry if a few people hold the opinions (Not to mention the key reviewers often belong to a similar social group ).

Yes there are more blogs being set up devoted to theatre reviews but there could be so many more because for every fringe show in London that opens with a handful of people in the audience one fledgling artistic company often doesn’t get chance to take the next level. And I, maybe like you, have often been the only person in an audience so if we don’t telegraph out what it was like that night then short run shows can close that night.  And even if nobody else comes to see it then you have put that show onto a record, it is kind of immortalised online. It’s there for other people to know about and that’s the great thing about being online – the reviews never die essentially which is good news for you if you are going to spend some time writing your review.

So that’s why it’s not important, not crucial it’s VITAL that people who have just walked out of a theatre show that have a reaction to it document it in some way because otherwise careers are being lost in fact particularly if you go against the review of the famous critics, it’s important to be heard. Let’s be honest history has shown they are not always right and yet they remain largely unchallenged. There is no right or wrong with art. There are just those with bigger mouthpieces. And this can skew the art that is being made and if you’re an artist or theatre lover that affects you. And if you look at the comments sections of some of the controversial reviews you can read the bitterness and sadness about it, it’s there and you can see it.

And at a time where there is so little arts funding, which always seems to be have been the case and even since the 70s people complained about the arts funding , reviews are a way of making the most or getting further with what we got and building an industry that is so rewarding. So if you’re a player of this industry then you owe it to yourself to build it forward. I just end this to say what are you going to do and I look forward to reading your review because it is the only way forward .

Don’t leave Artistic Careers Stranded!  For tips on writing a fast review there is a free cheat sheet here

More thoughts on stranded are here

Details for Writing a Theatre Review with HEART !

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review tips

The best advice I ever heard about putting a theatre review together is to make sure it is a useful experience for the reader from start to finish.

So I am sharing this – along with a photograph that inspired it

FAST REVIEW BLUEPRINT

 You had a strong reaction to something you saw on a stage and you want to write about it

You’re in the right place.

I have a system for it.  And the tiny details along the way may seem like common sense but they took me several years to get into a format that tells the story of a night at the theatre.

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The good thing about having a system made out of different pieces is that if you can get a few of them in place you are well on your way to delivering a valuable experience to your reader.

It’s goof proof.

You can put all your thoughts together with a checklist so nothing is left out.

Let me tell you all I can in this blueprint and I promise to offer more help to take further with you at the end.

Why?

There are some great benefits to being a theatre critic –

  • free theatre tickets and interval coffee with good company
  • grow your tribe by offering valuable content.
  • step forward with your writing career.

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Following a structure means your mind doesn’t hold you back and your imagination can be free. That is my intimate experience of using a system.

The blueprint I created from several late nights writing over 200 reviews will let you know how to write a review to bring you engaged readers fast.

And it’s here.

I found 3 rules gave me theatre goers who enjoyed my work!

  1. Set your own clear goals for what you want to write so your readers know what to expect from you.
  1. You can’t fail to satisfy your true fans and those who are not don’t have to read more if it’s not their bag.
  2. Be consistent about what are you cover in your review so readers know what your work offers.

TOP TIP – During the show listen out to other theatre goers are saying to validate what is useful to them. Gold dust! What would they like to know from your review?

We all have viewpoints and each is valid. Use other peoples opinions as inspiration but not a script.

Listen to their comments and put yourself in the readers place, seeing things from their point of view and what they would like to know.

Getting into your readers head and see the world their way and this will help you hear the words of your review.

This is one of those things that is challenging the first time you do it and then becomes a routine and eventually a breeze! Like a roller coaster the third time is a blast.

Publish and be useful is our goal!

Here we go let’s put all your hard work into action.

You have had a strong reaction to a performance and we are now going to put your thoughts into words.

Type in your answers to each section as we go >>

Yep? Let’s hit it.

Start at the beginning.

Step 1 Hook them in with a punchy opener.

Put the title at the start and make the words fit the question you want your review to answer.

Choose a title that matches what your audience wants to know.

Your headline is your magnet to attract the reader to your work!

Where do you want to take the audience what are you going to tell them?

Don’t lose your juice before we hit the middle bit though. Hold some of that great energy back!

Next give the basic info from the show listings.

What were the biggest questions your people in the queue in front of you wanted to know?

Answer their question specifically.

For example –

  • How long is the show?
  • Is it touring somewhere else afterwards?
  • Who is in the cast that we have heard of?

How does the show deliver a great ending?

What transformation do you think your readers will have?

Remember: Theatre seats are expensive, readers will thank you for your honesty!

Look back at your chat with the box office person – when they sold the show to you was there anything interesting in the chat you had? Bring in your reader with a clear shot about what’s in it for them.

Focus on your end goal – maybe you want to attract your readers to take advantage of the cultural events in their neighbor hood. What information can highlight this in your review?

With all these Q’s answered it’s time to head into the middle bit.

Step 2 Let’s talk about the Action!

Here’s the middle bit

What made the show pop?

If it was the plot use the programme or play text to write a brief outline of the story.

If it was the performance name the lead actors.

If it was the creative team, explain the vision of the director.

Now let readers know the type of drama they are going to see.

It’s important to be clear on the style of the work so readers can match a show to their mood.

Describe the genre of the work, was it circus, comedy, period drama, murder mystery etc.

Segment the above information to leave the reader with a concrete answer to what will get out of this show.

Talk about bonus value to ticket holders!

What are the other things on offer that makes this event stand out?

For example Free Talks, Creative workshops. Unusual merchandise, World Premier

These extras add to the audience experience.

Step 3 Deliver your verdict

How was it for you?

This is your postcard from the front row.

Take time to share your experience

Did you love it?

Why?

Work out how you want your verdict to look what is your point of view and how you want to say it.

Deliver it in three sentences –

Say what you thought why you thought it and what in the show backs it up.

Justify your response by stating the quality of the set, music, costumers, direction, acting etc

TIP – Don’t use the review as the soap box! Make your point then move on ready for the big finish.

What is the audiences response?

Will they be singing a song from show all the way home?

Or be remembering a funny line the next day to say at work?

This is you making recommendation so point the show towards the perfect audience. Who is this for? Grandmas, children, date night, hen parties, executives.

If you want to drive your point home –

Can you describe something that moves you and stays with you forever from the show to back this up?

Was it a reminder that life is for living or an uplifting feeling after 2 hours of beautiful emotions.

Step 4 Dig out a punchy last line

Leave your reader with your best shot.

Pick a take away line that will linger in the readers mind.

I could be a pun on the show title or a funny line from the lead actor.

It’s all done. You’re fine. It’s good.

Remember to look back at all your resources if you get stuck for example the theatre company website, interviews with the cast, local what’s on guides or online videos of the show can refresh your memory.

Then.

Relax.

You’ve created a review people will be excited to read so get ready to upload.

  • Get rid of any pointless words (brand new check list coming in my new book! Bit.ly/thefastreview )
  • Do a simple sub edit by looking for any typos and grammar errors in your spell check.
  • See that you have used the same tense all the way through.
  • Check with the programme or theatre website that you have spelt the names of the writer, theatre company, venue and show title correctly.

Now if you want to make this gem really shine look out for a tool kit on easy sub edits in my forthcoming book!

You are ready to go and ready to upload. Click send. C’mon. Let’s do it!!

Publish and be useful.

So let’s lock down the key points what a fast review is what it means to you

Note the order of these sections is not fixed in stone. If it makes sense to move them around do it. This is what works for me.

I want you to start practicing and take an action step today

I’m here to help you move forward

Yes there is a lot to flesh out – but you don’t have to do all of the steps here – the key is to start!

Here’s something you can apply right now to your next social media post.

You can use this today on your favourite microblog like tumblr etc

It’s a quick take away mini cheat sheet –

Targets to hit when time is pushed –

  • What was it?
  • How did it achieve this?
  • Describe it like a magic pill – powerful / energizing / refreshing?
  • What was the highlight?
  • What did you think of it?
  • Your verdict in three words?

Use this recap to make a tiny blog post review to the bank today and start getting immediate results writing about something you saw recently. (for maximise sharing look out for great hashtags in my new book bit.ly/thefastreview )

Find more posts on how details can inspire here

Cool questions to ask at a post show talk

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review tips
coffee chocolate review

After a great show at your local theatre sometimes there is the chance to meet the cast for an informal QandA.

This may even spark off the idea to write a review of the show to a local paper or blog it yourself.

The details the creative director gives about the show can often make things clearer and the insights are something worth sharing with other people who may want to see the show.

Deeper information about the creative process can help us all look up out of the daily grind to see bigger bolder ideas that puts the everyday in perspective.

By focussing on the questions below this will make it easy to put together a sentence to add more detail to your review –

What inspired the show?  Was it an historic event or a true story or another work of art for example?

What was the reasons behind the colours chosen for the costume design?

How does the company see the show developing beyond this performance? This is particularly interesting if the show is a first night or work in development.

Has the audience response been the same or does it vary in different locations?

Has the response so far been what you expected?  Does the audience laugh or clap points in the play that are unexpected?

How did the script change during rehearsal?  Did you add more funny lines or take a lot of lines out that were not needed?

Has the show changed a lot since it came out of the rehearsal period?

So a great way to wrap up your information is –

The company shared insights on (what inspired show) being the inspiration of the piece during a post show talk and revealed the (how long) rehearsal period brought discoveries that caused (a lot of/very few) changes to the script including (type of changes – cuts in length, new material).

Your guide can help an audience see the woods from the trees.

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Find a NEW free chapter from my book – ‘How to Write a Review in 90 mins’ here

and easily put together a quick review that will help others look up to the great beauty around them.

Other ‘look up’ posts are enjoyed here

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Questions to ask on a theatre tour

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review tips

It can be useful to add information about the venue especially if it is a site specific work as in a show that is created to performed in one particular spot like a public park or old shed.

It is also interesting to do a review of the building itself as a separate review if you are looking for content for your blog.

Was the building always a theatre?

The past history of an arts space is often colourful and reflected in the name of the theatre.

Examples include the Tobacco Factory, The Menier Chocolate Factory, The Print Room all had different purposes before they hosted shows.

Does the theatre produce its own work?

The opposite is, the theatre could be a receiving house and presents touring work it contracts in.

It can be useful to give an overview of the types of shows available, especially as some theatres specialise in a genre for example Theatre 503 produces new writing exclusively.

Does the theatre host amateur work or world by local and/or young groups?

There can be a huge interest in community shows and your review is likely to be shared widely.  A recent Amateur show I reviewed got 1000 hits within 3 days.

Does the theatre have a proscenium arch or is in the round or both?

Some theatres are famous for being in the round (where the seating goes all the way around the stage so the actors can be seen from all angles).  The Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough is in the round as it suit the new writing it often produces.

Does the theatre have a loyalty scheme or  is there a multi buy offer on tickets ?  Is there a discount scheme for sections of the community like young people?

If there is a great offer your viewers can have then you can let them know how to ask for the best deal.

Other questions on a theatre tour that can be useful are –

Are there premium tickets that let the audience meet the cast or have extra bonuses?

Do you do off site work or out door shows?

Has the theatre always been on this site?

Was it ever been rebuilt due to fire or major incidents?

Does it have a ghost?