We never thought we'd need it, but these days there are more a more reasons to hold onto the things you learnt about writing analytical and evaluative pieces. Here though, it's not as boring as it sounds.
Different events warrant different approaches.
Arts Award asks you try and push yourselves to try new things. If you write a review on an event alien to you, this can make make it seem very disorientating. In addition, depending on the art form on which you decide to write a piece, you can sit there and remember what you saw, such as a play like I did, or take notes simultaneously like at an exhibition. Some things require much more mental engagement, but that's what Arts Award is trying to hone in on: your ability to read art like an artist – critically – and your ability to critique someone else's work means you'll be able to critique your own work in the future and make it all the better for it.
Different events warrant different amounts of effort.
How much effort do you want to put in? Of course, for many of us for whom Arts Award is done outside of our formal education, this is a question we need to ask. I needed to get my Bronze done quickly so I did my review on theatre – something I was comfortably unfamiliar with. From how much effort is put in, other questions arise – a big one being money. Many young people outside of the formal education environment aren't going to be able to afford to attend something which is either expensive to attend, expensive to travel to see, or both. This (the latter in particular) leads to a focus in your portfolio which I personally like to encourage with Bronze at least: make it local, make your portfolio a test to see what you can accomplish creatively and as an artist in your locality, and then you can determine whether or not you are willing or are even able to stretch yourself to engage in the arts a bit further out.
But what to actually do?
It's difficult to tell you how to write a review because a good review is a matter of context, but there are things the things you need to think of. I'll try and cover a few bases:
1) Pay attention: you're doing something in your education which you choose to do, so you have a choice of what you do/see. Do it well!
If you need to, take a small notepad. Make notes on colour, performance, the audience, the atmosphere.
2) Enjoy it: this sounds like a cheesy way to finish off one of these lists but no. At the end of the day, art is art. It's beauty and creativity and all-encompassing, and your event should be something you enjoy seeing. Primarily so that it's not tedious when it comes to reviewing it, but also, because it's going to benefit you.
3) Make it yours: obviously it's yours, you're writing it. By this I mean you need to write everything to your opinion. This could sound obvious, but it's really easy to be sidetracked by someone who sounds as if they know what they're saying with a different opinion. Similarly, in the arts, names mean a lot. You could think that a piece you went to see was utter rubbish, but when you do your research later for details you find that someone involved is famous or won a Tony/Oscar/Sony or it was screened/exhibited/performed at the National Gallery. Don't be afraid; it's a bad habit to get into.
4) Finally, notice and be analytical: there have been textbooks, PhD theses and dissertations are written about the worth of analysing art. For a review, however, you want to see whether the use of something at an event was for a worthwhile reason. What story was it trying to tell? What was it trying to show? The success and your opinion on the little bits of a piece, as well as on a piece overall, are based on whether you think if it was deep and meaningful; there to look nice; or looked so out of place it made you sad – not as a creative reaction.
We have great reviews written here on Voice, from sub-editors and participants. Write your reviews for your portfolio and stick them on here!