Tag Archives: Theater

Trash’s 20 Arts Criticism Tenets

15 Jan
Image by GabeWW, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Image by HeyGabe, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

1. Sit down and shut the fuck up.

2. Your phone is not important during a performance.

3. Separate your personal feelings about an artist from their work. Love the art, hate the artist.

4. Write for the reader.

5. Listen to criticism of your work, but brush off the abuse.

6. Stay humble, no one wants to work with an asshole.

7. Be passionate about your work.

8. Fact check, fact check, oh dear Lord, fact check.

9. The only thing that should restrict your review is the word count.

10. A good critic can work around any word count,.

11. Going to a performance with an open mind and no expectations can lead to great experiences.

12. Remember that a review is not a stagnant piece of prose; it is a fluid work, it adapts, evolves and grows as you do.

13. Resisting change is futile.

14. Refusing to travel to “the regions” to see “regional work” will be your downfall.

15. Pay attention to what you’re reviewing; an alarming amount of ‘critics’ don’t.

16. Don’t write about yourself; the reader wants to read about the show, not your memories.

17. However, if you have a very relevant story to share, then by all means, share it. Just make sure that it’s relevant to the piece.

18. If you attempt to write a review that spends more time discussing how attractive or unattractive you find the actors in the piece, then you shouldn’t be a journalist, let alone a reviewer.

19. Try to keep on top of your emails, because some people will only email you once.

20. Don’t draw attention to yourself while you’re working. It’s off-putting to performers and it makes you look like a tool.

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The 10 Commandments of the Successful Critic

15 Jun
Candle by clemetchene used under a Creative Commons License

Candle by clemetchene used under a Creative Commons License

1. I am the Editor, thy employer. Thou shalt turn up to the performance/show/film/gig that thou art reviewing on time, wherein thou shalt be able to arrive calm, content and able to review the piece in question.

2. Thou shalt research the work that thou art reviewing, be it the previous work of the performers/actors/director/writer, so that thou shalt know what thou is talking about, and won’t give the impression that thou art talking out of thy ass.

3. Thou shalt act as a respectable member of thy’s publication team when reviewing. This includes not overdoing it with the free alcohol and then embarrassing oneself because of said alcohol.

4. Thou shalt file copy on time and within the word limit.

5. Thou shalt not steal work from another writer, be they living or dead and pass it off as thine own. Plagiarism will be discovered, and thou will only set thyself back by ripping off the intellectual property of others.

6. Thou shalt be respectful to venue staff, including FOH staff, PR people and press officers.

7. Thou shalt write about more than the performance; thou shalt consider the cultural, political, social and historical context of a piece. Criticism must move beyond the tired “It looked nice, it was acted well” narrative.

8. Thou shalt write with brevity and clarity; why write a 20 word filler sentence when a simple 10 words will do?

9. Thou shalt proofread thy’s own work before sending it to thou’s editor.

10. Thou shalt be prepared to listen to constructive criticism of thine work, and thou shalt take this criticism to heart.

Seven Tips for the Theatregoer Or Sit Down, Shut Up and Quit Moving

9 Dec

Theatre Audience

I go to the theatre quite a lot, and so, I’m pretty familiar with certain rules in the theatre. Other theatregoers, however, aren’t always as familiar with these rules as I am. Which, to be blunt, is rather annoying to other theatregoers, the actors, the director and the theatre staff, and so, in the spirit of Christmas, a bit of fun, and my own sanity, here are my seven tips for every theatregoer.

Be On Time

Shows start at a certain time, and this time is on your ticket. If you arrive at the theatre late, then there is a chance that you might not be allowed into the auditorium as your late arrival could disrupt the performance. Most theatres have a latecomers policy – you can find this on your ticket – so make sure you’re familiar with that venue’s particular policy.

If you are running late, it’s an idea to phone ahead and see if the theatre will let you in later, or perhaps even if they could stall the show’s starting time by a few minutes for you – this is rare, but it does happen.

However, if you are late, and the theatre staff let you in after the show starts, and you have to ask people to stand up so you can get to your seat, then be polite and extremely apologetic. Believe me, other theatregoers don’t appreciate latecomers any more than the actors/director/venue staff do.

Find Your Seat 

Now, I know the quality of seating somewhat varied between theatres, and sometimes it isn’t entirely clear where your seat is, but this is why theatres have signs and ushers; to show you where you should be sitting. If you’re ever unsure, ask. Don’t just sit down on the first seat you find; sitting in someone else’s seat is a sure-fire way to make you very unpopular very quickly. Find your seat and then sit in it.

Be Considerate

Theatres can be very cramped places, which is funny, considering that they are designed for people to flock to and enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, they are very sociable places, but you need to be considerate of others’ personal space at all times. So, if someone needs to squeeze past you to get to their seat, stand up so that they can get to their seat quickly.

The auditorium isn’t your living room, so if you have your belongings strewn all over the floor, pick them up so the person squeezing past you doesn’t have to make their journey any more precarious. It’s only polite and have you ever had to struggle to climb over somebody else’s bags while trying to make your way to your seat? It’s difficult, isn’t it? It’s also not very graceful, and takes more time to do. So don’t sit there, and shift your legs slightly to one side, that’s lazy and unhelpful – stand up, smile and get out of their way.

Similarly, if you are the person trying to squeeze past, say phrases like: “Excuse me, please.” when you need someone to move so you can get to your seat and “Thank you very much, that’s very good of you.” when someone moves for you – you’d be amazed how many people forget these basic and very necessary utterances. Be polite and appreciative in both the auditorium and the bar, which can get very busy during the interval, so don’t forget your manners, please.

Switch off your phone

By ‘switch off your phone’, I mean don’t just put it on silent; switch it off, put it back in your bag, or your pocket and don’t look at it for the entirety of the performance, you can do this, it is possible. Also, switch it off when you arrive at the venue, not when you’re told to by staff, or just before the curtain goes up.

Theatre is about escape, it’s where you can lose yourself in another world, it’s a place where your phone and your social life are not important. Don’t even think about checking your phone for messages during the show, a silent phone still lights up when used, and that light is not only instantly noticeable  but also really very bright and annoying, so leave it in your bag.

Be silent

That thing on your face – your mouth – close it. Stop making noises, stop talking to your best mate or whoever you’re at the theatre with about that dress an actor is wearing, or how funny that joke was. Silently close your mouth, and let not a sound come out of it unless you need to cough, sneeze or if something utterly amazing or distressing happens on stage.

The same applied to bringing in food –  only do this if you have to. Trust me, if it’s not the noise of you trying to rip open a packet of Maltesers with all the grace and artistry of a starving elephant attempting to open a Kilner jar full of peanuts, it’s the unimaginable noise that a single Werther’s Original makes when it’s being slowly unwrapped. Unwrapping it slowly doesn’t make it any quieter. So, if you must bring in food, (and I don’t think you need to) then please have it to hand and opened before the curtain goes up.

Be still

Is there any reason for you to be fidgeting? No? Then sit still. It seems like some people can’t watch a film or a show without fiddling with something on their person, such as a work pass, a necklace, their hair, or a really pretty, but far too noisy bracelet.

What some people forget, is that when they go to the theatre or even the cinema, is that fidgeting isn’t necessary in public. I once saw a woman take off one of her sandals and then proceed pick at the dry skin on her feet during an Edinburgh Fringe show; she did it for so long that a little pile of dead skin formed on the floor, which being a Fringe venue, also happened to be the stage. She had no idea she was doing it, it just seemed to be a bit of a habit for her, regardless of where she was.

So stop playing with stuff, chewing your nails, stroking your hair, picking at your feet and mucking about with your keys/lanyard/loud jewellery and be still, it’s very distracting.

Get Out

If you’re not enjoying the show, grab your stuff, stand up and leave the theatre quietly. There are other people there who would like to keep watching the show, so by all means, leave, no one is stopping you. Don’t sit there moaning about the show, or trying to distract yourself with your phone, shut up, stand up and get out of the theatre.

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