What Is a Critique?
A critique is a thoughtful and fair accounting of what you saw and an insightful analysis of your own reaction to the play.
Who or What Can I Critique?
- Playwright and play: (Also see below)
- Direction: Look for pace, unity, and overall quality of the production.
- Acting: Who stood out? Which performance affected you the most and why? Separate the actor from the role.
- Design elements: How did they contribute to the production?
- Scenery: Sets and properties
- Costumes: Correct for the play? Correct for the character, place, and period?
- Lighting: Emphasis, color, movement, and mood.
- Music and/or sound: Correct for the play? Correct for the character, place, and period?
How Do I Critique?
Here are two approaches you can take. Each represents a different way to achieve the same goal:
- Start with the play: Define the basic theme or idea. (e.g. “This play is about [greed, romance, politics, etc.]) If the play is a well-known classic, what new insight does this production present? If it is a new play, what, if anything makes it unique?
- Select and prioritize any or all of these subjects according to what you think is most important to the success and/or failure of the production:
- Lighting and Sound Effects
- Setting or Environment
- Stage Business (movement or spectacle)
- Other Significant Human Details
- Show how these elements affected the production. Keep in mind the following questions:
- What did the production try to do?
- How well was it done?
- Was it worth doing? Try to stick to what you saw and the impact it had on you. That is, try to articulate what you thought made the production a success or failure or whatever. Don’t dwell simply on whether or not you “liked” something; the big question is “why?”
Answer the following ten questions. Your answers become the basis for your critique.
- What was the drama about?
- How did the author (playwright) choose to treat his subject?
- What acting performance(s) stood out in your opinion?
- What made the performance(s) stand out?
- What technical element(s) (scenery, costumes, lighting, special effects, music) contributed most to the production and why?
- What were the weaker parts of the production?
- To what degree did these weaker elements hurt or hinder the production?
- What was the strongest single element of the production?
- What was your overall reaction to the production?
- How does this production compare to others you have seen?
- Read the play if it is available.
- Always read the program notes.
- Enjoy the play first. Don’t think about the critique until after you’ve had the experience.
Things that professional critics do:
- Frequently professional critics see the play twice, especially when the play is difficult to understand or they are not sure they understood what they saw.
- They read any reviews or articles about the production that may have been published so they can get other perspectives.
- They speak for themselves, regardless of what others may say, because others may not have the same tastes or sensibilities, or because they simply may be wrong.