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 !


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