Guide to Reviewing Theatre

Why have I never done a blog like this before now?

So it’s August- which can mean only one thing for my fellow young reviewers- it is Edinburgh Fringe Time.  I am sadly not going to be there this year so I thought I would pass on some of my wise words to any young reviewer who may be reviewing shows during the festival. Or if you are like me, you will be seeing shows out of the festival- these handy tips are still useful for you.

This article was actually published for Oddsocks for their young reviewers project so if you want to see it there click here 

Writing A Good Review

There are different approaches for when you write a review:

1-During the performance you can have a small notebook and pen and write notes as you go. Though be careful not to focus too much on what you are writing as you may miss an important part in the performance.

Only write something down that has stood out for you- that you think you may not remember after the performance.

If you are going to write down notes during the performance, do not disturb other audience members. Remember you are not the only one there.


2-After the performance, find a quiet spot and start to write the review.

Sometimes I find it easier to literally start writing down sentences or small paragraphs that may be useful for you when are typing the review up ready for publication.

It does not have to make sense even if you just write down your first reactions/ thoughts of the performance; it means that when you come to typing the review up it can help when you get those writers block moments (we all get them).


3-Talk to others about the performance,  why not have a discussion with others about what you liked and didn’t like about the performance.  It may give you a wider aspect of the play and can help when you are struggling to get your view written down on the page. But remember it is you who is writing the review, not them so don’t let their view influence your opinion.

So what goes into a review?

There is no strict rule on what you have to include in a review but you can use this as a guide for a structure or just to act as some starting points.

It is really important to engage with your readers and keep them interested in your review:

Open with a punchy paragraph, the first few lines should catch the reader’s attention for example

 Imagine if the Tweenies, Bill and Ben the Flower Pot Men or any other children’s TV show turned into a piece of political performance and it was to be played live at Northern Stage, then How To Occupy an Oil Rig would be the result.

(From my review of How To Occupy an Oil Rig)


Write a brief summary of the plot; do not give too much away. It just a broad analysis of the plot, try not to give every detail away. Sounds horrible but assume your readers are stupid , not all of your readers will know about each play as even the most well known plays will be new to someone.

Can you approach the review with an angle?

Is there anything special about the production, is it the first time an actor has played this role in this play or is it the anniversary of the production etc?

When reviewing the performance, think about how the actor has portrayed the character? Have they used vocals or physicality well or was there any chemistry between the characters?You don’t need to mention all the actors, just pick the ones that have made an impact on you.

Think about the set, lights, and sound designers. Are their names relevant?

Has the play been well written, did the story hold your attention?

Justify your views

When you talk about what worked/ did not work well, make sure you justify those views. Maybe compare and contrast, balance the good and bad comments.

Don’t be afraid to make criticism, if you didn’t like something about the play, say so but just make sure that criticism is constructive.Be honest and don’t be afraid to shy away from be negative but remember saying “Joe Blogs can’t act” should be avoided, you need to justify negative comments. 

Be concise, it is not an essay, the catchier the better.


Last bits of advice


Try to find your voice; none of my reviews are formal. Just picture it as if you have just been to see a show and your friend has asked you what did you think of it and go from there.

Writing reviews it not like writing an essay for your homework, it is meant to be fun and if you are not having fun writing a review then no one will enjoy reading it.


To check out my reviews from my blog click here or visit my portfolio to see more examples of reviewing work outside my blog.

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