I’ve been an accredited reviewer for Daily Information for about three years. Daily Information (Daily Info to its friends) is what I call an “Oxford Peculiar”. It started out as a printed listings poster that was circulated to notice boards in places like colleges and pubs a couple of times a week by a team of dedicated bicyclists. The poster is still printed, but these days the main repository for listings, reviews and miscellaneous small ads is the web site.
Anybody can submit reviews for shows, films, restaurants, sandwich bars, sandwiches etc. and if they like your stuff they invite you to become a regular reviewer. The way this works is that people who are putting on an event ask for a reviewer and the folks in the Daily Info office circulate an email list to their reviewers who then volunteer to cover an event of their choice. The event supplies one (sometimes two) free tickets and the review has to be in by 10 o’clock the next morning. Ideal work for night owls.
After a break over the winter, I’ve recently started to go back to reviewing. Obviously different people take different approaches and you can just go along, watch the performance and do the review, but I generally do some preparation if I’m going in an “official” capacity.
The trick is to produce a review that’s fair to the public, the producers and the performers. This is easier said than done, but in the course of my reviewing career, I’ve developed a few rules of thumb.
1. Be prepared. If you’re interviewing people about the production, they will appreciate the fact that you’ve done your homework and you’ll get a better interview.
2. Observe everything – lighting, staging, props, costumes, audience reaction.
3. If you’re reviewing a children’s performance, you’re basically writing to encourage the children and please the parents. (This isn’t as difficult as it may sound, as children generally seem put a lot of time and effort into rehearsal and preparation).
4. Satisfying as a really good hatchet job is , it’s only really feasible for films, as members of the Hollywood glitterati are unlikely to be behind you in the checkout queue at Tesco’s.