Reviewing theatre shows can seem like a daunting task, and one for newspaper critics and journalists with years of experience. But, everyone has to start somewhere, and it's great to develop your reviewing skills from an early age. So, where do you begin?
Picking your show
Find a local theatre to see SSF performances at on the SSF website: http://www.ssf.uk.com/taking-part - then check individual theatre websites for ticket information. You will see 3 or 4 different plays at each SSF performance. You can take a bit of time to decide which performance you'd like to review.
It's sometimes good to see a play you've never heard of, as you'll be reviewing the play based only on the performance, rather than your expectations about what it should be like.
But, if it's a play you know really well, it'll help you to get points of reference, and to build a complex review based on your previous knowledge.
Either way, it's important to go to your performance with an open mind - allow the play to surprise you, and don't go with any expectations.
Making notes in the theatre is tricky. Instead, concentrate as much as you can on the action and allow yourself to be pulled into the story and key emotions. During the interval, make sure you have a pen and notepad where you can jot down your key thoughts. Ask yourself:
- How has the play been staged? Think about use of space and props.
- Which performers are making an impact on you and why?
- Has the story been told in an imaginative way?(eg. themes, setting, historical context)
- What did you enjoy about the way Shakespeare's language was used?
- If the play was narrated, what did you think of the way the narrator told the story?
- How is it making you feel?
- How is it different from your previous experience of this play, if any?
Take ten minutes during the interval and/or after the show to ask yourself these questions, so you can get your main ideas down while it's still fresh in your mind.
Speaking to the cast
If you can get quotes from the cast or directors, this will add depth to your review. Look out for SSF staff on the night who might be able to help you do this. Ask the cast members and directors how they enjoyed it, and the main creative ideas behind their production. Make sure to voice record or write down their answers so you can quote them! You don't need too much, one or two sentences can be enough.
Writing your review
It helps to write a one sentence analysis, to keep your review on track. For example: "An imaginatively designed performance of Romeo and Juliet, with a good play on comedy" or "A brutal retelling of Hamlet with an emphasis on modern political violence"
Then, plan a beginning, middle and end. Make sure that each paragraph is still in keeping with your one line analysis. A good structure is this:
Introduce the overall ideas and themes of the play. What was the one most effective take away point?
Look at each of the take away points in more detail. It helps to write a paragraph on each area. For example:
Paragraph one - which themes did the performance highlight, and how did they make these work?
Paragraph two - how was the set used to make these themes stand out?
Paragraph three - how did the performers add to these themes, and who was especially notable?
- If you know this play already – or if you've seen another school's performance of it on a different performance night - how was it different to other versions you've seen? What was good about this?
- If you've never seen the play before, what have you learnt from it? How clear were the messages? What is your takeaway feeling?
Leave it for 24 hours, then read over again to check for spelling and grammar mistakes.
Read the review out loud to yourself - you'll feel mad, but it'll help you to hear the mistakes!
Show your review to a friend or family member. Can they spot any mistakes? Do they understand your main points? Does it flow well?
Once you're happy with your review, you can share it on Voice!
If you don't already have an account, register for one in the top right hand corner of the site. Please contact us on [email protected] if you have any problems.
Once your account is set up (or if you already have one) make sure that you are logged. If you go to the top right hand corner of the site, and click on the icon...
...your details should come up.
Then visit here, scroll down and click on 'REVIEW'. An upload form should open up.
1. In "Title" write [SSF Review: Title of the play: Name of the school who performed it]
2. Upload an image of the performance, or the logo from the SSF site
3. Write a one line summary of the performance in the SUMMARY box
4. Paste your review into the CONTENT box
5. Scroll down to VOICEBOX and select 'Shakespeare Schools Festival' (note, this will come up if you start typing the word Shakespeare!)
Then save in the top right hand corner!
Once your work is up on the site, you can share the link with your friends, post it on Twitter, or paste it onto your own blog. There is also a competition to find the top reviews! Click here for more info.