A Young Critic’s Guide to Writing Reviews with The Quotable Sayak

The Quotable Sayak

The Quotable Sayak

The Quotable Sayak is a critic, contributor and coordinator of social media at Sesaya. Naturally arts-inclined, he is a drama major in a secondary arts program and music student at Sesaya.

Sayak reviews Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang, Young People’s Theatre 2015

1. Before the Show – Prepare

  • Read up on the show, the playwright and the cast
  • Be careful! For example, a wiki like Wikipedia might be inaccurate or include a synopsis that will spoil the ending. Also, try to steer clear of other reviews to avoid being influenced or biased by someone else’s perspective.

2. At the Show – Watch it & Notice Key Elements

  • I know it sounds obvious, but seriously, watch closely, and PAY ATTENTION!
  • Be present and in the moment. Even if you don’t like the show’s concept or storyline, keep an open mind and try to be as objective as possible.
  • Think about how the performance and actors are making you feel. Can you feel their emotion? Do you believe what they’re portraying?
  • Make a point of noting unique or different twists that set this apart from other shows. Note things that YOU found interesting, even if you think others may not find it interesting. What makes it stand out from the pack?
  • Sayak reviews Baobab and Hana’s Suitcase, Young People’s Theatre 2015

    Make note of several aspects of a show – storyline, acting, costumes, set design, and anything in between. You don’t have to talk about ALL of these things in your review, but you should talk about some of them to keep your review distinct and interesting. What you notice and the details you include in your review will support your observations and make your point of view different from other critics.

3. After the Show – Reflect and Write

  • Start by brainstorming questions you asked yourself, and anything that sparked questions or a reaction from you. Take these points, and start to turn them into your review.
  • Make sure to include

i) the basic plot (without giving too much away)
ii) anything that you liked and didn’t like
iii)  your brainstorming points, and
iv) anything else you want to include to make the reader understand why you felt the way you did about the show

  • Try to convince the reader about how you felt about the show, but NEVER beat them over the head with your opinion. Never make the reader feel obliged to feel how you felt.
  • Never degrade the people involved in the show. You can say you didn’t like how an actor portrayed a certain role, or how the set was designed, etc., but NEVER make rude comments about the people themselves. It’s a critic’s responsibility to present as clear and unbiased an opinion as possible. Personal comments take away from this. They can read like personal attacks rather than an impartial impression of a show.

Sayak discusses his critical process with his peers and Lois Adamson, Interim Artistic Associate, Education, at a student matinee of The Wizard of Oz, Young People’s Theatre 2016

Some writing tips:

  • Try to use strong verbs that will create a picture in your readers’ or viewers’ minds. A well-chosen verb will make you sound more objective than most adjectives or adverbs – and let you make a stronger statement.
  • Also, pay attention to transitions. Transitions create a flow in your writing and gently guide the reader through your point of view.

4. Final Thoughts

  • Write about a show you feel passionate about (positive or negative).
  • Try to improve some part of your reviews each and every time you review something.
  • Share your review with friends, family and the artist or theatre company. It’s a great way to start a conversation.

(If you’re interested, you can read my reviews on Sesaya.com.)

© 2017 The Quotable Sayak, Sesaya

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