Over the last year, I've been reviewing theatre for several publications. As an actress, reviewing other actors, whilst I must admit my focus can often stray to a mix of 'Christ their impressive' and 'I should've played that role', somewhere along the way, in chatting to swathes of press and industry, i've picked up a couple of tips and tricks from the other side of the comp ticket.
1) Press are your friend
EVERYONE who turns up to your press night wants to see something incredible. We want your show to be the best thing we've ever seen, we want to have a brilliant evening, we want to laugh and cry with you, and when we take our seats that is all still a possibility. A bad review is much harder to write than a good one, requiring us to be much more witty to make up for the tone-draining negativity, so unless we have some long-running personal feud with you, we are genuinely rooting for you, I promise.
2) First impressions absolutely count.
Set. Guest List. Front of House. Programme. Programme Notes. Drink Comps.
Many of us start writing the blanket details of our review/opening words when we're sitting in the bar, checking the programme and waiting for the show to start. Put us in a good mood. And so...
3) Consider your pre-show and set, make sure it speaks to what is to follow.
This is the first thing we're mentally reviewing, so this is SO important. If we're sat staring at an am-dram peeling paint cardboard set for twenty minutes, it's going to effect how we read what follows. Equally, if we're staring at an incredible big budget pre-show, if what follows is sub-par, it's going to look even worse.
4) Don't bother with nerves, embarassment, insecurity.
The stakes are not that high, mistakes are expected and certainly won't be the sole cause of a bad review. However, if you're embarassed or nervous about what you're doing, generally speaking, we can see it. In too many professional production to mention, I've seen actors under-commit to their role, making facial comments on failed jokes, or just generally underplaying things in order to save the embarassment of fully committing. GIVE IT EVERYTHING, EVEN IF YOU THINK ITS AWFUL. If you're that uncomfortable with what you have to do, it should have been discussed with your director far before this point, but discuss it with them ASAP. If it really IS that bad, at least by playing it to its full extend you're doing your job, and its not your fault, its your directors. If you give a underplayed i-dont-care-i'm-not-doing-that performance, particularly in comedy, it is most definitely YOUR fault, and people will give you full credit for that mistake.
5) Stick around for a chat
Reviews are based on a full experience, if a member of cast, director, whatever is there to explain why certain things went a certain way or what you were trying to get at with a particular risky choice, we're more likely to understand where your performance was coming from and it may even change the way we see the performance, putting it in a better light. The biggest complaint is generally a lack of clarity, just a five minute chat can remedy that, and might just help us both out.
6) Don't take it seriously
A bad review can hurt like hell, I still have lines memorized from some of my most cringe-worthy moments. But, ultimately, remember it is an opinion. Often, with a good reviewer, actors will know if and why they've got a bad review, even before reading it. But, ultimately, the key is not to overthink- whether the review is good or bad- your job is to listen to your director and carry on as if Press Night had never happened.
Check out my review for Holy Crap for The Spy in The Stalls at http://thespyinthestalls.com/2017/06/holy-crap-2/