Monday, 11 March 2013

On reading and reviews...



Photo by Fiona Bulle

Reading.

Last night, the Cold Readings Series (CRS) hosted a reading of my new full-length play, “A Modern Superwoman”. CRS usually focuses on film scripts and mostly reads extracts. This is only the second time they’ve read a full-length script; the first was the screenplay for “41”, which was released as a feature film last year.

“Superwoman” is in its fourth draft at the moment. I’ve been developing it for a while now, but most the script was written in the last twelve months. Some of the scenes that were read last night, were only written last week. After the third draft, I got some feedback that suggested the play was underwritten – that connections between the characters were vague and their relationships suffered because of that.

In this latest draft, I’ve tried to making everything a little more explicit – without spelling everything out. And at this stage, it’s been very helpful to just lay everything out clearly. I can always pare it back later. The reading was helpful to hear what was working and whether bits were overwritten and how strong the connections between the characters are at this stage.

What’s also great about the CRS, is the post-reading discussion. The actors give their feedback to the writer. The audience gives their feedback to the writer. And the writer tries to stand there not looking too defensive or like a deer in headlights. I found the discussion very helpful, given the play’s subject matter and the tricky balance I have with a couple of the character’s stories.

The post-official discussion discussion is much more relaxing, but also helpful – even just as an ego boost. I find at that point, people are happy to discuss what they really liked about the play, rather than in the discussion when they feel like they want to highlight the flaws first up. In all ways, this is still helpful. There’s no point being there if you’re just after praise. The point of the reading is to make the play better and having heard the play and the discussion, it definitely will.

Thanks to Fiona Bulle and Serenity DeAngeles at CRS and to everyone who came along to read and talk after.

Reviews.

I don’t consider myself a theatre critic or reviewer. My blog is about the theatre I make and the theatre I see. I don’t write about every show I see. When I do write about the shows I see, I don’t necessarily consider them reviews. The three-in-one post I made yesterday about three shows I saw in the last week is a good example of this. While there are comments about all three productions, I guess the compare-and-contrast style won’t be that helpful to people who haven’t seen the other shows or who have no interest in seeing them.

I see shows to continue to further my theatrical education, as well as to support other independent theatre-makers in Melbourne. Most times, I pay to see shows. Sometimes, I’ll get a comp from a friend. Sometimes, I’ll be invited to a show because of the blog.

Whatever I post on here will be honest, whatever my circumstance – whether it’s a mainstage production or if it’s a show I’ve seen just because there’s an actor in it that I know. Because I’m not a critic, I pick and choose which shows I write about at a whim. This most recent “review” post came about because the hook of seeing three shows in a week about couples. After seeing “Constellations”, I could have written a thousand words on it alone, but I’m not a critic. I don’t feel the need to write about every show I see – even a show I loved as much as that.

But in an exercise to compare three somewhat similar - though on a very basic level - plays, I was moved to write a little something about them all. Because of that, I only touched on certain elements of each production – and didn’t try to cover them in as much detail as I would if I’d written indivdual reviews for each.

This blog is primarily about my theatre-making and my theatre watching. It is not a theatre review blog. If you want me to review your show, I make no promises. I never want to feel obligated to write a review. I mostly write about shows I loved, but if I didn’t review your show, it might not be that I didn’t love it, it might be that I didn’t have time or I just couldn’t find the hook for me to write about it.

Sometimes it’s tricky as a theatre-maker in a community that feels so small to be honest when writing reviews, especially when they are made by people I am friends with. So, the only promise I make is that when I blog about shows, I’ll tell you what I really thought. 

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