The Art of Theatre Criticism

Theatre criticism is an art form that requires skills, knowledge, and ethics from the critic. In this guide, we will discuss the main aspects of theatre criticism that aspiring and practising critics should consider.

What is Theatre Criticism?

Theatre criticism is a form of writing that evaluates and analyses theatrical performances. It examines how the various elements of a production work together to create a theatrical experience for the audience.

Purposes of Theatre Criticism

Theatre criticism can serve many purposes, such as:

  1. Providing publicity for the production and the artists involved.
  2. Sparking discussion and debate among theatregoers and theatre professionals.
  3. Offering constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement.
  4. Informing and educating potential audiences about the quality and style of a show.
  5. Documenting and preserving an ephemeral art form.

Aspects of Theatre Criticism

To write effective theatre criticism, a critic should consider the following aspects:

1. Research

Before attending a show, a critic should do some background research on the play, the playwright, the director, the actors, and the theatre company. Some sources of research include:

  • The play script and other works by the playwright.
  • Reviews and articles about previous productions of the same or similar plays.
  • Interviews and statements by the director, actors, and other artists involved in the production.
  • Websites and social media pages of the theatre company and the venue.
  • Books and journals on theatre history, theory, and criticism.

2. Observation

During the performance, a critic should pay close attention to all aspects of the production. This includes:

  • The plot, characters, themes, and messages of the play.
  • The acting skills, techniques, and choices of the performers.
  • The directorial vision, style, and methods of staging the play.
  • The design elements, such as costumes, sets, lighting, sound, and props.
  • The audience reaction and engagement.

A critic should also take notes during or after the show to record their impressions, opinions, and questions.

3. Analysis

After watching the show, a critic should reflect on their observations and formulate their analysis. Some questions that can guide analysis include:

  • What was the main purpose or message of the play and the production?
  • How did the various elements of the production support or undermine that purpose or message?
  • What were the strengths and weaknesses of each element of the production?
  • How did the production compare or contrast with other productions of the same or similar plays?
  • How did the production affect or challenge me as an audience member?

4. Writing

The final step of theatre criticism is writing. Some tips for writing effective theatre criticism include:

  • Use clear and concise language that is appropriate for your intended audience and medium.
  • Use specific examples and evidence from the production to support your claims and arguments.
  • Use a logical structure that organizes your ideas into an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
  • Use a consistent tone and voice that expresses your personality and perspective as a critic.
  • Use proper grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting.

By considering these aspects, a critic can provide insightful and informative theatre criticism that serves the purpose of promoting, analyzing, and preserving theatre as an art form.

Photo by Melanie Deziel on Unsplash

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