Written by Our Theatre Critique
Ever wondered what should be considered when a theatre critique compiles and writes a review of what they see and experience – usually the first night of any run? Here are a number of questions, intended as a guide for writing by a theater critique. These can be used to help focus thoughts about various elements within a production.
Were the actors believable, given the requirements of the play? If they were believable, how did they seem to accomplish this? If they weren’t believable, what occurred to impair or destroy believability? (As you discuss this, be sure to separate the performer from the role. For example, you can dislike a character but admire the performance.)
Identify the performers you considered most successful. Citing specifics from the production, note what they did well: particular gestures, lines, or moments. Try to describe each performer so as to give the reader a clear image. For example, how did the performer’s voice sound? How did he or she move? How did he or she interpret the role?
If there were performers you did not like, identify them and explain why you did not like them. Give concrete examples to explain why their performances were less successful.
Acting is more than just a collection of individual performances. The entire company needs to work as a unit (this is sometimes called ensemble): each actor must not only perform his or her own role but also support the other performers. Discuss how the performers related or failed to relate to one another. Did they listen to each other and respond? Did any actor seem to be “showing off’ and ignoring the others?
The director unifies a production and frequently provides an interpretation of the text. Did there seem to be a unifying idea behind the production? If so, how would you express it? How were you able to see it embodied in the production? Was it embodied in striking images or in the way the actors developed their performances? (You should be aware that this can be one of the most difficult aspects of a production to evaluate, even for very experienced theatergoers.)
Did all the elements of the production seem to be unified and to fit together seamlessly? How was this reflected, in particular, in the visual elements? the scenery, costumes, and lighting.?
How did the director move the actors around onstage? Were there any moments when you felt that such movement was particularly effective or ineffective? Were entrances and exits smooth?
Did the pace or rhythm of the production seem right? Did it drag or move swiftly? Did one scene follow another quickly, or were there long pauses or interruptions?
What type of theater was it? How large or small was it? How opulent or elaborate? How simple or modern? What type of stage did it have: proscenium, thrust, arena, or some other type? How did the stage space relate to audience seating?
What was the size and shape of the playing space?
What sort of atmosphere did the space suggest? How was that atmosphere created?
Did the space seem to meet the needs of the play? Did it affect the production, and if so, how?
What information was conveyed by the scenery about time, place, characters, and situation? How was this information conveyed to you?
What was the overall atmosphere of the setting?
Did any colors dominate? How did colors affect your impression of the theater event?
Was the setting a specific place, or was it no recognizable or real locale? Did that choice seem appropriate for the play.?
If the setting was realistic, how effectively did it reproduce what the place would actually look like?
Were there symbolic elements in the scenery? If so, what were they? How did they relate to the play?
What information was conveyed by the costumes about time, place, characters, and situation? How was this information conveyed to you?
What was the period of the costumes? What was the style? Were the costumes from a period other than the period in which the play was written or originally set? If so, how did this affect the production? Why do you think this choice was made?
How was color used to give you clues to the personalities of the characters?
Did each character’s costume or costumes seem appropriate for his or her personality, social status, occupation, etc.? Why or why not?
Did the costumes help you understand conflicts, differing social groups, and interpersonal relationships? if so, how?
What information was conveyed by the lighting about time, place, characters, and situation? How was this information conveyed to you?
Describe the mood of the lighting. How was color and intensity used to affect mood? What other characteristics of light were used to affect mood? Was the lighting appropriate for the mood of each scene? Why or why not?
Was the lighting realistic or nonrealistic? What was the direction of the light? Did it seem to come from a natural source, or was it artificial? Did this choice seem appropriate for the text?
Were the actors properly lit? Could their faces be seen?
Were light changes made slowly or quickly? How did this affect the play? Did it seem right for the play?
What was the text for the performance? Was it a traditional play? Was it a piece created by the actors or director? Was the piece improvisatory? (Note that most productions you attend will use traditional scripts as texts, and most of the following questions are based on this traditional model. However, you can adapt these questions for texts which have been created in nontraditional ways.)
What was the text about? What was the author of the text trying to communicate to the audience? Did the author try to communicate more than one message?
How was the meaning of the text communicated through words, actions, or symbols?
Did you agree with the point of view of the text.? Why or why not?
What was the genre of the text? Was it comedy, tragedy, farce, melodrama, or tragicomedy? Was the text realistic or nonrealistic? Was it presentational or representational?
Using terms you have encountered in your theater course or textbook, describe the structure of the text. Was it climactic (intensive)? Was it episodic (extensive)? Was it some combination of the two?
Many theorists argue that conflict is necessary for a dramatic text. Describe the conflict within the text in the production you saw. Which characters were in conflict? Was there a moment in the action when the conflict seemed to come to a head? Was the conflict resolved or not? How did you feel about its resolution or lack of resolution? If the conflict was resolved, how was it resolved? How did the conflict seem to embody the meaning of the text?
What were the major desires, goals, objectives, and motivations of the leading characters? How did these help you understand the meaning of the text?
Were the characters realistic, symbolic, allegorical, totally divorced from reality, etc.?
How did minor characters relate to major characters? For instance, were they contrasts or parallels?
Did you identify most with one of the characters? If so, describe this character and explain why you identified with him or her.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 25 October 2006 )