Theatre Review Guidelines

In order to keep our theatre reviews consistent throughout the site, could all reviewers please follow this guide when writing.

Word Count

Different sites have different word limits for their reviews, for example What’s On Stage now write around 200 words. We believe this is too little and does not benefit the reader, hence please follow the below word count guidelines:

  • One Act Plays – 250-400 words
  • Full Length Plays – 400-750 words

In certain instances, like reviewing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the word count may be less – but in any such case you will be informed of this beforehand.

Format

Please make sure you review is formatted clearly, using this template at the head of your review

Title of Show
Theatre Company (IF APPLICABLE)
Theatre Name
by (WRITERS NAME) / Music by/Lyrics by (IF A MUSICAL)
Directed by (DIRECTORS NAME)

(STAR RATING GOES HERE)
Reviewer: (YOUR NAME)

(YOUR REVIEW GOES HERE)

Runs until: DATE SHOW RUNS UNTIL (INCLUDE “AND THEN TOURING UNTIL” IF THE PRODUCTION IS A TOURING ONE) (in bold)

Image Credit: PHOTOGRAPHERS NAME (in italics)

Deadline

When press tickets have been allocated your review is due, by the latest, 12pm the following day – failure to adhere to this will mean we have broken our contract with the theatres, and consequently we may not be assigned press tickets in the future. All reviews will be posted within 24 hours.

Style

We encourage you to find your own voice and style as a writer and reviewer – but we kindly ask all to obey the following 3 rules:

  • No personal attacks. All criticism must be justified and constructive – justify all opinions. (A quick legal warning – although reviews are opinion, the rules of libel still apply)
  • Write in the 3rd person – avoid the use of “I”. Reviews should be objective rather than based on personal likes and dislikes
  • Write in the present tense – Eg. “Judi Dench gives an intricate performance” rather than “Judi Dench gave an intricate performance” – this makes for a punchier read.

When referring to productions/actors etc, please adhere to the following:

  • Published works should be capitalised and in Italics (Eg. Singin’ in the Rain)
  • Song titles should simply have capitals, no italics.
  • When referring to an actor or subject of your piece, after using the full name initially, you should revert to using the surname. (Eg. “Benedict Cumberbatch was last seen playing Hamlet, and now takes on Macbeth. Cumberbatch…”)

And just a few more further style related rules to follow – last ones, we promise.

  • Use double quote mark for quotations (Eg. Sondheim himself said to Imelda Staunton, “You just have to play Rose”)
  • Avoid exclamation marks – It doesn’t come across well in writing, and is a bit like laughing at your own jokes.
  • Capitals are for proper nouns – used for names and never “The Director”.
  • Make sure your spelling is the British, not the American version of the word.
  • If you wish to use brackets, please use parentheses and not square brackets.
  • Numbers 1-9 in word form, the rest in numerical form.

The Star System

At The Daily Spectacle we use a half star rating system – because we know you just hate it when you’re tearing your hair out because a production isn’t quite a 5 star, but it deserves more than 4 stars.

This system gives you a little bit more flexibility to express your opinion.

However for the sake of consistency, we ask reviewers to follow the guidelines detailed below –

     
0 0 Extremely poor production – No redeeming features – I wanted to leave before the Interval.
0.5  0.5 A badly flawed production – little or nothing to redeem itself – Just walk past the theatre.
1  1 A poorly executed production – I felt embarrassed watching it – Would be angry if I’d paid.
1.5  1.5 A production lacking in substance – Just about watchable – Save your money.
2  2 A below average production – Watchable – I’d rather have been elsewhere
2.5  2.5 An average production – I don’t hate it but I don’t love it – I’d pay if it was on discount
3  3 A good production – some enjoyable moments throughout – Better than a night in front of the TV
3.5  3.5 An enjoyable production – It isn’t going to set the world alight – Well worth a visit
4  4 A great production – No real flaws, but lacking in areas – You won’t be disappointed
4.5  4.5 A thoroughly excellent production – Just lacks that little extra bit of magic – Recommend to everyone.
5  5 Faultless from start to finish – This production will stay with me for years – I’d pay to go again-  Unmissable

If you’re a full star or more out, and the content of your review really does not match with the rating given, we may try to contact you and consult you about your review. However, The Daily Spectacle reserves the right for the editor to change the star rating if it feels it to be necessary.

The above table gives you an idea of what kind of language/tone the editor will be looking out for – just to ensure the content matches the rating.

PLEASE NOTE: In most cases we do not give star ratings to amateur productions – we would have to rate them accordingly to be consistent, and it is unfair to compare them with professional standards.

Tips

  • Try to open with a punchy paragraph
  • End with a strapline that sums the production up that could be used for publicity Eg. “Powerful and poignant – a must for every lover of theatre”
  • Be concise, this is a review not an essay – short paragraphs and catchy lines keep a readers attention.
  • Don’t assume your reader will know the play – even the most well-known will be new to some readers.
  • Include a brief summary of the plot – but don’t give too much away.
  • Consider mentioning the history of the play if relevant – is this a re-invention?
  • There is no need to mention every member of the cast – some productions, particularly musicals, have huge ensembles.
  • Don’t forget, there is more to a production than the actors – How does the set/lighting/sound design influence the effectiveness of the production.
  • How has the director chosen to stage the piece? Does the style work? Etc
  • For a musical consider the influence of the Choreographer and Musical Director
  • Think about the play itself – Is it well written? Is the language evocative? Have they created strong characters? Is the topic relevant?
  • Be honest – Don’t shy away from being negative if justified.
  • Always check your spelling and grammar. Try reading your review aloud to make sure it makes sense– this is your responsibility not the editors

Social Media

Your review will be automatically shared by The Daily Spectacle social media pages – however your review will gain more traffic if you share it yourself among your friends. You can do this by sharing/retweeting the Daily Spectacle post, or simply sharing the URL on your own social media pages.

If you wish to post the review on your own personal blog we kindly request that you wait for 3 days after the review is published. We also ask that you include “This review was written for The Daily Spectacle” and include the URL link to the review as well as using our logo at the bottom of your blog (email editor@dailyspectacle.co.uk for copies)

Happy reviewing!