We’ve all seen a play review. Whether you agree with them or not, play reviews engage you and can be the difference between you splashing out on a play, and not.
However, some reviews don’t quite cut it – they criticize everything, and let their own personal opinion sway their judgment. It’s not helpful to read – making anybody feel uncomfortable.
So, how can you find the difference between writing a great play review, and writing one who makes people think you’re overly critical and cruel?
Below, we’ve written our top tips on how to write a play review, avoiding any serious issues.
What is a review?
A play review is a subjective, educated response to a theatre show. Of course, readers expect the reviewer to have some expertise, to trust their opinion.
A play review essentially tells readers if it’s worth them splashing the cash on a production.
A review should also give no “spoilers,” ensuring that it remains mysterious. Opinions supported by analysis, without giving too much information away.
Reviews are enjoyed and used by many. They can let a reader know if something is worth their money or simply entertain them.
What makes a review well-written?
A great reviewer should be able to detach themselves from their personal opinions. Being able to analyze the production, in terms other than a like or dislike way, is essential.
Also, being able to support any opinion made with examples is necessary. This enables the reviewer’s response to look less biased – ensuring an informed opinion.
Another great trait of a reviewer is empathy. Can they put themselves in other people’s shoes and understand that their opinion may utterly different from their own? This will enable you to create a thoughtful review, that everybody can appreciate.
Let’s dive into the top tips.
Practice is key
Like everything, practice makes perfect. Keep going to shows and writing your opinion- be your own critic and keep writing.
Try to get into the habit of explaining why you like something, and why you don’t.
“Avoid using opinions that you can’t overtly back up. This will take a little bit of practice, as we all have our personal justifications for our feelings, but this doesn’t suffice when writing a review. Really practicing writing and re-reading over your own work is a great place to start.” — Estelle Leotard, a senior writer at Studicus.
Read other reviews
Collect publications and read reviews. This is really crucial – it allows you to be inspired and help you find your own unique writing style. It also gives you more ideas on how to word your reviews, and thoughtfully back up any criticism.
We recommend reading reviews for shows that you’ve also been to. Consider how they reflect on the same appearance as you and how those reviewers backed up all their points. This will help you put yourself in the mind of others – what you love about a play, somebody else may see as a flaw.
The more you read reviews, the more you’ll be able to craft your own reviews.
To be able to write a great review, you have to know the best arrangement. As you craft your own style, the structure may differ – but here’s a great starting point.
Introduction – Here, you should introduce the play. For example, the name, the playwright, the company putting on the play, the context, and the touring show.
General execution – How was the play executed as a whole? What was the creative vision behind the production? Is it interpreted uniquely? What is the context, too? This will help the reader gain a stronger idea about the entire play. This is important for those wondering if they should join.
Get specific – A paragraph should always touch on specifics. Usually, this is a unique part of the play. Any reviewers also get specific about the director In this paragraph.
Opinion – This is the part where you give your opinion. Let the reader know where you believe the production was successful or unsuccessful. You can touch on anything, from the lighting, acting, costuming, sound, and set. Was there anything that stood out that you feel the reader needs to know about.
“I strongly recommend finishing up your review by telling the reader if you recommend it. They will trust and appreciate your opinion.” — Marie Fincher, a writer and editor at Trust My Paper.
How to watch a show as a reviewer
Going to watch a play becomes a little different, especially when you’re reviewing. Before the show, you should remember to keep an open mind. Maybe research into the production company, director, and those acting – but other than that, don’t do anything out of the ordinary. You don’t want to go into a show we a preconceived idea.
During the show, you should make as many notes as you can. Explain what you’re seeing, and make notes of anything important. For instance, did a particular actor really catch your eye?
Of course, don’t spend more time looking at your notebook than the actual play, though. You don’t want to miss anything.
After the show, check over your notes and write a really rough draft. You should do this almost immediately – it keeps the play, and all the emotions felt raw. You should also double-check over all your facts, before editing and producing the final result.
What to do if they don’t like your review
It doesn’t matter if somebody doesn’t like or agree with your review. This is especially true if you have backed up all your opinions with examples and facts.
As a reviewer, you should be prepared for some backlash. You can’t change your opinion out of worry.
Following the above will help you craft a review that’s engaging, thoughtful, and useful. Though most of it will require practice, you’ll be able to write informative and piquant reviews.
Above all, have fun writing your reviews. Take advantage of the fact that you’re able to see unique shows, and people will listen to and appreciate your opinion – not many can say this.