First Identify – What type of story does the show use ?
There are 7 types of story
- Overcoming the Monster.
- Rags to Riches.
- The Quest.
- Voyage and Return.
Check through the programme, company online site or search engine to find out which of the above best describes what it is.
Then ask yourself how is it done? There are as many styles of delivery as there are theatre directors! Contemporary, Traditional, Experimental, Purist are some of the takes the show may have.
Dig a bit deeper online to find out what genre you will be watching for example – Elizabethan, Farce, Comedy, Absurd theatre, Murder Mystery, Passion Play, Musical, New Writing.
Look at photos of the production online to spot whether the story is told through a particular culture or location ?
Then put together a one sentence summary to the plot.
This story follows a typical (type of story) plot line done with a (name of style) style and is a great example of the (name of genre) genre.
This gives you a basic description and the pointers below will help you a start to outline the plot in your review.
You can add more detail about the story telling with these ideas below –
There are two ends of the spectrum to describe story telling…
Some shows may flash back to the past by using moment set in the present. Using devised techniques all time scales are possible.
Or the show can be a slow burner of a tale told in real time that may stretch over more than one night if it is an epic historical drama or about the birth of civilisation to the modern day!
Add a comment about the way the story is told
The story is told at a (rapid/slow) pace using (flashbacks/several performances/real time acting).
Sometimes the story is told through an object – the show title may point to this like ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’. A piece of Art has been central to many shows like ‘Art’. Music has been the main story line too in plays like ‘The Kreutzer Sonata’.
Use anything that is central to the play as describing the theme.
Modern shows can be based around one single emotion or one type of experience like grief or loss.
Decide on which theme you wish to explain and jot down a sentence that starts –
The action is based around (object/music/type of emotion).
You are telling the reader what their ticket price is paying for in terms of drama and it is likely you can grab this detail from the website or a copy of the programme or if it is a classic play a version of it will be online.
If the show has a more traditional format follow the journey of the hero in the story.
Telling the story from the hero’s point of view can add a fresh angle to your review.
Try this Activity to tell the story through the character –
Step into the shoes of the hero. How did they get through they eye of the needle?
What challenge did they come through?
Describe the steps of the hero took to get to the end goal.
What was the prize at the end?
Why is the hero such a unique character?
What roadblocks did the central character get past?
What results did the hero help others achieve?
With the above info add this sentence to your review –
Now answer this question as another sentence to add to your review
The hero is such a unique character because…
Next expand on the type of adventure or outline
Fight against (force for bad) the unlikely hero wins by (victory he achieve) and discovers (what is learnt in the process)
This shines a light on (modern event or happening)
Many plays have a strong agenda and political message.
Do not hold back on presenting the power of the work.
You can also share what makes you passionate about this cause. Why do you stand up for this cause?
Open up deeper to the subtext or conditions around the revelation why this is important to the reader.
It may be that talking about the characters inner journey is a better fit for the play and this would let the reader tap into ideas about what we would do in this situation.
If this is the case these questions can help –
What held the hero back and what did s/he fight to overcome?
The actions of the hero means (what) for the other characters ?
What were the problems the other characters faced before the hero acted ?
What changes as a result of the heros actions?
Jot down a few notes to express the power of the story to the reader.
Notice how reading it back makes you feel. Does it sound like the show you saw?
Find your own way to explain the story to your reader so they can quickly grasp if the pace of the show is for them.
Picking out four sentences one from each of the sections above gives a great overview.
It’s important to tell your readers enough about the story so they can judge if a show will take them somewhere they want to go.
If they have had a busy day they may just want an easy farcical comedy or they may want to finish a lazy Sunday with a challenging historical drama.
It’s no secret the that story has a way of taking you somewhere new and feeling a certain way by pulling on our own connections. Personal stories can hit a nerve so you are also guiding them away from a bad night out.
So here is the moment to tell your reader what happened.
They may not want to experience through someone else’s eyes a particular traumatic event and may want to go to celebrate and event that means a lot to their family like a military battle.
Remember (as always) your take is as valid as anyone else’s – you just need to be authentic, open and consistent.
One tip is not to send out mixed messages about something. Where possible only describe the things that you have a clear opinion of something (even if the choice is the value 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.