How to Write a Play Review: 14 Steps

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How to Write a Play Review: 14 Steps
How to Write a Play Review: 14 Steps

The performance of a play is a live experience, so it can be an exciting but difficult task to condense into a review. You will have to be a spectator who assimilates and enjoys the performance, and at the same time a critic who analyzes the production. However, with the right preparation and structure, you can create a well-written play review.


Part 1 of 2: Prepare to Write a Review

Write a Play Review Step 1
Write a Play Review Step 1

Step 1. Understand the purpose of a play review

This is a subjective and educated response to a representation. The critic must have a good knowledge of the theater so that his opinion is informed and credible, although it is not a requirement to write a good review.

  • The review should also give potential audiences an idea of the work. In addition, you need to let your readers know if it will be worth spending the money it cost them to earn on a ticket for that work.
  • Mentioning that you found a work "good" or "bad" will not constitute a good review. Rather, you must be specific in your criticism and make a conscious analysis of the production. Your opinion of the work should be based on a discussion about the elements of the production and how they all worked together.
  • The review should also describe the situation or plot of the work without providing too much information to the reader. In your review, avoid revealing any plot twists to the public.
Write a Play Review Step 2
Write a Play Review Step 2

Step 2. Look at the traditional structure of a play review

A standard review will have about five paragraphs. There are other approaches you can use such as comparing two works in a review or writing a longer one for a single work. But the traditional thing is that a review analyzes various elements of a production in five paragraphs that consist of the following:

  • Paragraph 1: This is the introductory paragraph where you will describe what you saw on stage. You should also present the context of the work, such as who the writer or composer is and where it is performed.
  • Paragraph 2: Make a brief summary of the plot of the play.
  • Paragraph 3: Talk about acting and directing. Reacts to the actors' interpretation of the characters in the play.
  • Paragraph 4: Describes the design elements of the production, such as lighting, sound, costumes, makeup, set, and props.
  • Paragraph 5: write your reaction to the work as a whole. Would you recommend the work to potential viewers? You can also include a recommendation, such as a star rating or a thumbs up or thumbs down.
Write a Play Review Step 3
Write a Play Review Step 3

Step 3. Read and analyze sample reviews

Search Google for local plays that are performed in your city and that have reviews online. Grab a newspaper and check the arts and culture section for reviews of plays. You can also have access to examples on the Internet. Read the reviews and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How does the critic structure his review? Does this follow the traditional structure, with an introduction in paragraph 1, a plot summary in paragraph 2, a discussion of acting and direction in paragraph 3, a discussion of production elements in paragraph 4, and a general review at 5?
  • Compare two reviews of the same work. How can they be compared and contrasted? Do they have different structures or criticisms of the work?
  • Is the editor overly critical of the work? Does your analysis seem well supported by scenes or a discussion of design elements?
  • How does the critic complete his review? Is there a recommendation at the end of the article, like a star rating or a thumbs up or down?
Write a Play Review Step 4
Write a Play Review Step 4

Step 4. If possible, read the play you will be evaluating

If you are going to review a popular play like "Hamlet" or "Little Shop of Horror," you can find a physical copy. Newer or darker plays may be harder to find. Reading it will help you become familiar with the subject and how it appears on a page before watching the production live.

  • Mention prompts, directions, and broken lines or pauses in dialogue.
  • Pick any trouble spots in the play that you want to pay attention to during production. For example, if you are going to watch Shakespeare's “Hamlet,” you could take notes on how the director represents the central scene in which Ophelia drowns. If, on the other hand, you are going to see a musical like “La tiendita del horror”, you could pay attention to the way in which the director will make the transitions between the songs and the dialogues in the production.
  • Your teacher may also ask you to pay special attention to certain items, such as lighting or costumes, so make sure you are ready to recognize them.
Write a Play Review Step 5
Write a Play Review Step 5

Step 5. Get an idea of the context of the production

It is not advisable to investigate too much about it as it could influence your experience when seeing it. However, you should have an idea of the context of the production: in which theater the play is being presented, who is directing it, and what freedoms have been taken with the original content, if any.

For example, perhaps you are going to see a version of "Hamlet" set in contemporary times and that integrates technology into production. Maybe you are going to see a production of “La tiendita del horror” that is set in a record store instead of a theater. The change of scenery will also change the context of the play and then you will have to mention in your review how this choice is used in the production

Part 2 of 2: Write the Review

Write a Play Review Step 6
Write a Play Review Step 6

Step 1. Observe the program of the play

Try to get to the place where the play will be performed 15 minutes before the start time. Browse the program of the play. Find the director's note and the bio of the cast members. You should also check to see if there are any replacements in the production, especially if the show is advertised based on the popularity of a particular actor.

See if there is any explanation on the show about the director's choices, like adapting "Hamlet" to contemporary time. Perhaps there will also be notes on lighting or sound design

Write a Play Review Step 7
Write a Play Review Step 7

Step 2. Take notes during the show

It is important to write down any highlighting details during production. But try not to bury your head in the notebook throughout the work, as you could miss some details or a crucial moment. Use the intermission, which usually occurs between acts in a play, to make more detailed notes. Take the following aspects into consideration:

  • The stage design. Look at design elements like lighting, sound, costumes, makeup, and props.
  • The performance and direction of the work. If a certain decision in the selection of the actors seems important, write it down. If a line in dialogue impresses you, write it down as well. Observe the way the actors deliver their dialogue and move across the stage. Are they serious, comical, or formal? Do they use modern jargon or speech even though the work originally dates from an older period?
  • Any use of "special effects" such as lighting, sound, or technology. See if the production engages the audience to keep them engaged.
  • Right after the performance, write down any concluding notes, including your first impressions of the production and how successful or unsuccessful it seemed to you.
Write a Play Review Step 8
Write a Play Review Step 8

Step 3. Write a rough draft of the review right after you've seen the production

The longer you wait, the less you will remember your experience of the play. Remember that your role as a critic is to describe, analyze and judge. In your review, you will need to do the following:

  • Describe what you saw in detail and make the reader understand your appreciation. Be specific and direct in your descriptions.
  • Analyze what you think the director or designer wanted to achieve. Why do you think they designed the movements, lighting, sound effects, and costumes in a certain way? What do you think they were trying to make the audience feel or think?
  • Judge how effective the play was as a whole. Don't be afraid to give an honest opinion of the production, but you will have to be able to support it in the body of your review (paragraphs 2 to 4).
Write a Play Review Step 9
Write a Play Review Step 9

Step 4. Create a good hook or phrase to start the review

You could start with a summary if it's a new staging of a play that viewers are familiar with.

  • For example, in this review of "The Little Store of Horror," the editor begins with the phrase: "This Fringe classic appears almost every year and excites audiences with songs like Somewhere That’s Green and Don’t Feed The Plants."
  • This opening phrase works because it allows the reader to immediately dive into the topic. In a sentence the editor introduced the play, mentioned that it is a "classic" and told the reader that it is a popular musical.
  • You can also start with a hook that defies viewers' expectations of a popular production. For example, in this review of “La tiendita del horror”, the editor begins with the following sentence: “Not many musicals will give you a book with the lyrics of the songs so that you can join in the singing, but this interactive production of The little store of horror has some surprises up its sleeve”.
  • This hook works because it indicates that the work takes a unique perspective on a classic production and is also interactive.
Write a Play Review Step 10
Write a Play Review Step 10

Step 5. In paragraph 1 answer the questions who, what, where and when

The introductory paragraph should cover basic information about the play, including the following:

  • The full title
  • Where did you see the play? Mention the theater or stage where it was performed.
  • When did you see the show? Maybe it was the first presentation or the last week of the season. Be specific about the exact date you saw the show.
  • Who wrote the play? Who directed it? List the playwright, the director, and the name of the production company.
  • If a play that already existed such as "Little Shop of Horror" or "Hamlet" has been re-staged, you should mention it in your introduction. If the show is a new or original production, you must also indicate this.
Write a Play Review Step 11
Write a Play Review Step 11

Step 6. Talk about the plot in paragraph 2

Make a brief summary of the plot of the play, including the setting, the main characters and the arc of its story. Aim for the summary to be one to two lines long. You just have to give the reader the necessary information so that they have a general idea of the plot.

For example, you could summarize “Little Shop of Horror” like this: “Little Shop of Horror is a very entertaining musical due to its hilarious plot consisting of a plant that grows to an incredible size and the romantic love story between Seymour and Audrey”

Write a Play Review Step 12
Write a Play Review Step 12

Step 7. Talk about acting and direction in paragraph 3

Express your reaction to the interpretation of the characters made by the actors in the play. Use their real names and those of the characters. Write about acting based on the following questions:

  • Were the actors credible? Did your relationships or chemistry with the other characters seem natural and appropriate? Did the actors stay within their characters throughout the play?
  • Did the actors have a vocal quality (volume and articulation) that suited the context of the play? Were their body movements and gestures consistent with the character they were supposed to play?
  • Were the actors captivating and interesting to watch? If so, why did you get that impression?
  • For example, in your review of "The Little Store of Horror" you could mention the following: "The main credits of the play are for the main roles of Cath Snowball (as Audrey) and Chris Rushmere York as Seymour who created a very tangible chemistry but very shy and evasive”.
Write a Play Review Step 13
Write a Play Review Step 13

Step 8. Discuss the design elements of the play in paragraph 4

These are an important part of production and should be covered in detail in your review. Focus your analysis on the following aspects:

  • The stage and the props: did they create the right atmosphere for the play? Did they contribute to the development of the characters, the plot and the setting? Were they credible and well done?
  • Did the on-stage planning make sense? Planning is the way in which the actors position themselves on the stage. Did the actors have any awkward movements on stage? Was the setting contributing to the performances or hindering them?
  • Lighting: did the lights convey an atmosphere that suited the tone of the work? Did they draw attention to characters or props that seemed important?
  • Costumes and makeup: did the performers' costumes and makeup fit the time period of the play? Was there any unique approach to costume or makeup that affected the context of the play?
  • The sound: if so, how did the music contribute to the atmosphere of the play? Were sound effects used in the show? If so, what did they contribute to the production? If you are going to write a review of a musical, mention if there was a live orchestra or if the music was previously recorded; as well as the way this affected the sound of the work in general.
  • Try to be as thorough as possible when discussing design elements. For example, in a review of “Little Shop of Horror” you might mention the following: “The decision to have the props and cast in grayscale was an extravagant decision by the director. The performers wore a thick layer of gray and black makeup to create a contrast to the monstrous green plant when it ate people alive and grew larger and larger as the play progressed. "
Write a Play Review Step 14
Write a Play Review Step 14

Step 9. React to the whole work in paragraph 5

In the review, this is the part where your final review should be. Avoid clichéd phrases like "the play was bad" or "the production was not very entertaining." Rather, express your opinion of the representation as a whole and show why your answer is valid and meaningful. The rest of the review should support your general opinion of the play.

  • Indicate whether viewers seemed attentive and interested throughout the performance. It also points out any changes or modifications that could have been made to make it more forceful or captivating.
  • For example, you might state the following: “Although the production evidently took some creative risks in putting all the performers on a grayscale, not including luminous green plants in the sensational number of Something Green felt like a missed opportunity in the film. that it was possible to take advantage of this contrast”.
  • Get your reader left with a clear idea of your opinion about the play and with more questions than answers about it. For example, you could end your review of "The Little Store of Horror" like this: "The new production takes creative risks and emphasizes the singing skills of the performers, who manage to enact this love story and a monstrous plant with passion. and conviction”.

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