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


 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.


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.


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.


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?


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.



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! )
  • 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 )

Find more posts on how details can inspire here

Cool questions to ask at a post show talk

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review tips
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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.



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


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?


Punching Power out of the Story

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review tips
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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.
  • Comedy.
  • Tragedy.
  • Rebirth.

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.




Hook a Hot Headline

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review tips

The questions you hear being asked at the ticket desk can be useful to point our what your readers need to know.

It’s good to know what are the problems the theatre goers have that you could be solved in your review –  for example

Are there special transport links if the show is off site?

Is there an adult rated content because of nudity or swearing?

Is there a special arrangement for access for wheelchairs because of a change in the set?


If you go to the Box Office in person listen in to what the audience wants so you know what people are interested in.

Keep an ideas book with you or your phone ready to note down key words fast.

If you are not near enough to the theatre to go in person ask friends and family what would their obstacles be to seeing a show you are reviewing.  Alternatively check through social media accounts for the theatre and visiting company to see if there is any special facts that are useful to know .

Get ready for your ideas to erupt when you think about your audience frequently!

Using the insights you have gathered above to pick out a headline or opening line that best fits their need.

Here are some examples –

  • Stop [undesired result – sitting on the sofa]
  • There’s Big [desired result – laughs] In [this play]
  • How to turn [magic beans] into [a giant beanstalk]
  • Get Rid of [problem – boredom] Once and For All
  • Never Suffer From [undesired result – a boring evening] Again
  • The Quickest & Easiest Way To [desired result like make yourself laugh] is to see this show
  • This Story Shows How Easily You Can [have world peace if a leader is strong]
  • Give Me [short time period] and I’ll Give You [3 reasons to see this show]
  • How [name of character] Got [result of the play] Without [undesired result] is unbelievable and this show tells us how!
  • To People That Want To [desired result – cry out their inner feelings] But Can’t Get Started – see this show

The Theatre may offer tours of the building and let you know about talks from the company performing on stage.

Later on in the book there are questions to ask should you go to a show related event that will give you more to write about in your review.

Keep expanding on the enjoyment that is out there for the reader so you will be the authority they return to.  For this to work don’t exaggerate your claims!

It’s super fun when you know what people are interested in although one of the things people get narked about is a show being very different to how it was billed.

After all, you could argue that no show is bad it’s just not what the viewer wanted to see at the time.

Nothing worse being sat in the middle of a retelling of ‘War and Peace’ when you wanted something short fluffy and cheery.

One of the problems with show titles is they don’t always tell you what the show is about or what feelings the show will pull out.

The publicity poster doesn’t always help.

I once saw a brilliant military drama called ‘Topless Mum’ that used a mild porno shot as the publicity photo. The show was well written had good production values and a great cast. It could have reached more people if you knew this was something you could go and see quite comfortably  with your mum. It had an amazing twist and the end and no seedy content as the title had pointed to.  In short, it deserved to pull a bigger crowd and an honest review would help!

By telling people that the show is worth their attention or giving them enough of the right info they can make their choice is important.

Our resources are precious –  time money and attention and emotion are some of things we don’t get back.

This is why we outline the story of the show.

And that’s what we will do next.

Just get the opening line for review written now and then flick the page.




Calling the Box Office

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review tips

There are many things you can discover from a simple phone call to the theatre box office that will be invaluable to your reader.

They will remember you for getting them off the sofa and having a fun time with others!

You are taking the time to lay the foundations for their great night out by showing them information they would not otherwise have the chance to find out if they are making a last minute decision of what to do.

Help your readers connect to their best night out by asking the ticket office –

What is the running time of the show ?

Does the show have an interval ?  If so.. how many ?

What are the cheapest tickets ?

How much do the premium seats cost and what is the benefit of these (free drink or play text for example) ?

During which dates is the show in the theatre for ?

Who is the star or main attraction of the show ?

Has there been any change to the cast due to unforeseen circumstances ?


Using your answers to the above – craft your first opening paragraph on your Word doc or Evernote –

(name of show) is at (name of theatre) during (dates) and for only (cheapest tickets) you can see (main star) appear/dance/sing/shine  in this (length of show) performance


Follow your writing impulse and find your tribe

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review tips

I know that feeling.

You laugh at the wrong line in a movie, you don’t understand the ‘in’ joke or get sad watching comedians.  It’s bad enough when it’s just you and your friends but when you’re in a room full of people you don’t know that’s tough!

When trying something new, people don’t like to be shown up to be different in public.

Of course.  I know I don’t.

You are their guide.  You are the one saying, you know what, I didn’t get the ending but I enjoyed watching it  – and an honest luke warm review is no bad thing.  Here’s why –

In every theatre there are good times to be had for cheap and in some cases for free; and every time a curtain goes up on an unfilled seat a chance to change someone’s perspective on life is lost.

The chance to even make someone smile for an hour or two is also gone.

Your Theatre needs you!

(Not in a WW2 way.)

But maybe in the way that your readers need to know a bit more about a show before buying a ticket and turning up kind of way.

Sometimes people just don’t know about where new venues are or when local outdoor events start.  Fresh new voices reviewing things start new streams of possibility for everyone.  Festivals, for example, are a great way to bring people to see brand new work in a safe environment and super way to test out your reviewing skills.

As more people join a tribe that speaks directly to them and follow your encouragement to try something for the first time your own audience grows.

We live in an unprecedented time when there are few barriers to putting on a show.  Live video streaming has theatre companies performing live work across the nation.  Arts is no longer exclusive and everything is possible.  Amateur groups produce challenging contemporary work beyond the safe musicals they were known for.  Students stage epic Greek dramas with casts of nearly 100 that a professional theatre could never find the budget to tour theatres with.

So now is the time to grasp that impulse you have when you feel so strongly about a piece of entertainment, like a TV show, Summer Festival, Circus Act, Street Busker, Indy Band that you have to tell people about it yesterday because it has ignited something in you.

The reason I share these tips is that I used to spend hours writing reviews.  I have written over 200 so far.  I do it because I love it and I have gotten quicker at it.  I was a slow learner and got a system down so I want to share all the smooth techniques I have had to find when I saw an amazing show.

I saw ‘Remor’ at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012.  It was 11 minutes long and performed in a box that only seated a handful of people.  With the best will in the world the word of mouth was limited and I wasn’t sure how this amazing piece of installation theatre from Spain was going to reach the people it needed to.  I got a review out on line that explained why it was essential viewing on the first day of the 3 week festival.

‘Remor’ is a fine show and went on to win accolades at the festival it completely deserved.  I was happy to bring this to people’s attention on the first night of the fringe and received a massive peak in website traffic.

This might not happen everyday but when it does you will be ready to fly and cause a stir with your passion and a storm with your words.

So where will  your reviews take your audience?

Personally I want more people in the theatre/open air auditorium/mall because that’s the good thing theatre now happens everywhere.

After all Rowena Cade built a theatre out of stone in a rural Cornish village and that is doing great business.  A great place to watch Whales go by as you watch a play with a the Atlantic Coast as a back drop from your seat on a cliff top.  Your words can be the reason someone experiences awesomeness for themselves.

That’s the impulse of your review inspiring your reader.

Hopefully getting people off the sofa and into the theatre is your thing. This is arguably more important than ever now we all need more community in our lives.  Human connection is hard to find in our fast lives.

If that’s not something you feel.. this is not your book.  Sorry.

Whatever your politics, wherever you stand on arts funding or mainstream comedy vs elite high tragedy one thing theatre folk tend to agree on is that community is a good thing.  It makes us feel safe, that we belong, that we can grow together,  that we can safely reveal who we are and be recognised for that.

Reviewing will make more things possible for you, your reader and the theatre and I’m all for that.

OK, so we knocked out a quick first review in the previous part (you didn’t?  pop back and bang that one out!) and we posted it onto facebook to get our inner momentum going and to hear our inner writer speak.

Now let’s make the necessary hitting of deadlines much more smooth, satisfying and even joyful.

The one thing this book cannot do is edit your review, nor should it try because your writing is unique to you.  Your review is 100% belonging to you and part of your soul.  My hope is that  there this is enough in these pages to make writing easy and enable you to succeed.

Let’s start the real deal.

Pick a show that speaks to you and call the box office.  And speak to them.  And there are great questions you can ask to get the first paragraph of your review done in seconds.

Turn the page and we’ll get the most out of that call together.


Find Your Authentic Voice

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review tips

Choosing what you write about will make it easy to write with passion.

Pick an event to write about that excites you.

To help yourself be at the heart of the latest information putting yourself at the centre of Theatre mailings.

It can be a good idea to open a separate email account and use this to sign up for all theatre newsletters and creative company’s mail outs so this does not clog up your personal email inbox.

This makes it easy to get to the first night of something.  Your review will be one of the first online and you can enjoy added traffic to your site or gain prominence as a reviewer this way.

It’s important to get the latest news from theatres so you can react quickly to their latest season of shows and be the first to cherry pick what works for you.

Choose the show title, image or story from your local theatre’s brochure, website and email newsletter that gives you the most tingles in your stomach.

What makes you feel energised to want to know more about the show?

Now imagine a good friend is sat next to you.  What would you say to them about the show?   What do you want them to know? What action do you want them to take?  Why should they take your word for it?  What would you advise them not to do?

Speak to this friend, using the information available and tell them of what they missed, and why they should see it.  Be sure to include answers to

What was it?

How was it done?

Where was it performed?

Why does it look like it is worth seeing?

or if it is not worth seeing .. Why do the performers/writers/artists feel this work was important to do?

(Maybe it is the centenary of the writer, a play to celebrate a national event or something traditional)

The flow that you hit in writing this small piece lets you hear your own voice.

Publish these responses on your blog or social media and announce to the world there will be more reviews to follow – watch this space! This a great way of getting friends to ask for the next update and this will give you momentum.

How does that make you feel?  Give it a colour/shape/sensation – so you can tap into this quickly when you write your next piece.

Tips on how to be relaxed when you write –

The more at ease you are when you write the deeper the work and more authentic it will be.

Be prepared for your fast plan to create reviews.

Candles, oils, walks, music, a favourite play list that inspires, an energy snack of seeds – get your success kit ready to hand so you are all set to go.  Inspiring pics of places, loved ones or heroes are also good.  A great selection of nice pens and pencils and spiral notebooks.

Be in touch with your inner self so you can find your truth and honest words to use.  They’re all there.  Get used to listening out for them.

Tap into your own way of getting calm and focussed and grounded your own way.

PS – If you have enjoyed this exercise you may like to do a regular ‘top theatre tips’ to your followers suggesting a great show they could try.