Tuesday, 17 December 2013

An insight on my year as a theatre reviewer and writer.

Well, this time last year I would never have known what 2013 was about to grant me. With my 'proper' job I went on a course in mid Wales to learn about beef and lamb slaughtering and meat packaging and I got to appear on a national television advert for Tesco as the Tesco butcher in their Love Every Mouthful campaign.

More importantly to me I found an opportunity to work on a new aspect of my writing and from it I began to further develop my second blog about my involvement with the world of professional theatre. This came about through a chance finding of a review website called www.thepublicreviews.com. They were asking for new reviewers and so, as per their remit, I sent in a copy of a review I had done for Piaf at Curve theatre in Leicester which was accepted with some critical suggestions for style improvement and a particular way of writing. I also received an online booklet that gave all reviewers guidance and rules about the way a review should be submitted. The way it works is that every Sunday a listing is sent by email and you send in a 'bid' by email if you want to critique a particular show. If successful you get a notification saying that two tickets will be at the box office to pick up. There is no choice in the night you go and often it can be a press night so there is a chance to mingle and have a chat with the theatre staff with a glass of wine. There is a time pressure to have the review in on time. It is sent by email and must be with Public Reviews by 12pm the next day or you may be taken off their books. Considering I don't get home from the shows until about 11pm I still have to write the review and am often up until 1am until I am satisfied with the result. I do some research prior to going to the show which is important and helps with the writing. Incidentally, there is no wage to do this – it is done out of love for the theatre and writing. The tickets are comps.

I still review plays independently and now I have got my name and good reputation known over the year I get invites from Nottingham Live and Derby Theatre to review a variety of shows. I also use Twitter and Facebook to promote my blog post reviews and those that appear on the Public Review site.

Over the last ten months (I started in March 2013) I have reviewed over thirty shows mostly in Derby. I began at The Guildhall with Hardgraft Theatre's 'I Love Derby' and Reform Theatre Company's 'Me and Me Dad' and UK Touring Theatre's new translation of Strindberg's 'Miss Julie'.

For Derby Theatre I have reviewed their home grown productions and touring productions including Balletboyz -the talent, The Opinion Makers, Cooking with Elvis, September in the Rain, Go Back for Murder, Kes, Blue Remembered Hills, The Seagull, The Pitmen Painters and Horrible Christmas. For Derby Live I went to their amazing arts festival (Derby Festé ) and witnessed the stunning outdoor event – As The World Tipped.

For Nottingham Playhouse I have reviewed, The Ashes, The Kite Runner, Richard III and Jack and the Beanstalk and I went also to a free event about the writing process of a future production by Amanda Whittington called My Judy Garland Life. There have been very few chances to review at Nottingham's Theatre Royal but Nottingham Live did ask me review Nottingham Operatic Society's Oklahoma!

Recently I returned to Curve in Leicester to review the musical Chicago and even attended Martin Berry's 'A Christmas Carol' at Lakeside before going to work one Friday morning and then working until nine that evening! When I got home at 10pm I wrote their review and put it online. Phew!

There have been talks and shows that I have attended and decided not to do a review. This isn't because I didn't like them but usually to give myself a rest from 'having' to review everything and work full time and write my food blog as well!

I tend not to review at The Lace Market Theatre because I have so many friends there and it is difficult to offer an impartial view on a production when you know practically everyone involved. I do write articles for their monthly magazine -The Boards however and like to promote ex members who have gone on from an amateur status to study drama and theatre design with an aim of working professionally in the arts.

If I were to choose – the best play I have seen over the last ten months I would unreservedly say it was Cooking With Elvis at Derby Theatre.

The old Derby Playhouse (same building) gave me my grounding and enthusiasm for theatre going and acting during the 1970s and 1980s and this led to me joining and performing with Derby Theatre in The Round and Derby Shakespeare Company and eventually coming to Nottingham in the late 1980s to take my degree in the performing arts. I then spent many a happy year performing with The Lace Market Theatre and others and dipped into the world of television through Central Television productions and some film work.

So, thank you fate for steering me on this exciting course of writing about the theatre that I love. Who knows what 2014 will bring!

Do check out my theatre reviews on this blog!

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