Reviews and comment from the Demon Crew - creative writers at De Montfort University, Leicester.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Question: Is Romeo and Juliet about binge drinking?

The audience at DMU's Cultural Exchange Event 'A Reviewer's Perspective' got the answer: renowned Guardian theatre critic Michael Billington said if the play is good then it can be whatever you want it to be. Shakespeare's work is certainly resilient enough to cope with such interpretations.

I am new to the art of theatre reviews, and admit to feeling a bit odd writing a review of a reviewer, however, I was interested to hear how one of the masters perfected his craft. With forty years service at The Guardian, Michael has sat through some of the best, and worst, of Britain's plays and musicals. That is a lot of interval ice cream.

He is an optimistic chap, and has seen and commented on the many developments in Theatre Land, also the impact of the wider world on this branch of the Arts.

In terms of writing, I feel respect is due to the theatre critic, who, within an hour of curtain call, must submit a complete review, ready for the morning's papers. This review must also be well written. Michael cited his own great influence, the Observer reviewer Kenneth Tynan, who he felt 'wrote with voluptuous style: fluent, witty and combative prose.' That is certainly something to aim for.

Ultimately, Michael's advice to the aspiring theatre critic is to have an overpowering urge to write, and an ability to engage, entertain and express opinions with clarity. Oh, and the small matter of an insatiable appetite for theatre. And ice cream.

Sally Jack

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