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HARROWDRAMA Theatre Review

Harrow International School, Bangkok

This has been adapted from an essay On Being an Audience: A Spectators Guide written by
Dan Urian, translated by Naomi Paz which can be found in the book Talking of Drama, ed,
by David Holbrooke, Routledge, 1997
I have given a separate page for each element so that teachers can either hand these out to
students with interests in those areas or can pick and choose which questions they would
like their students to ask.
It is my contention that guided spectatorship can bring the theatre audience closer to
performance. Guided spectatorship is not intended to restrict students to a particular
approach or conception of drama, but rather to introduce a dialogue with the work; the aim
is to create an informed spectator. Dan Urian
The essay goes on to discuss the dormant dramatic knowledge possessed by young people
and adults is extremely widemost young people watch television and go to the cinema and
develop critical tools for dealing with the broadcast textsMartin Esslin claims that what
theatre, cinema and television share is the dramatic, and that intense watching enriches
the spectators knowledge of plot construction, character design, use of dialogue and other
dramatic componentsstudents find both purpose and pleasure when they are guided to
activate their television knowledge in the study of theatre. What is important, for our
purposes, is that they are acquiring a dramatic vocabulary which can be used in drama
education. Dan Urian

HARROWDRAMA Theatre Review
Harrow International School, Bangkok
Before the performance
How was the production advertised? Did you become aware of it through posters,
subscription, newspapers, television, leaflets distributed by the theatre company?
Or from conversations with people who had seen it? Or some other source?
Are any of the plays creators (director, actor, lighting, costume, etc..) known to you?
How does this familiarity affect your attitude towards the performance before even
seeing it? How is the theatrical location where you will watch the show designed?
What is it outer covering? A palatial building? A special building? A mundane
location like a street or a market place?
What is your horizon of expectation
created by the information from above? Have
they been raised or lowered by the above answers?
When does the performance take place? How does this affect your mental mood?
At what type of audience do you think the play is aimed?
Do you have any preconceptions about the play? Have you seen it before? Have
you already read it?
Do you have any special feelings about the kind of style you like (professional?
Devised? Modern?) How will your personal taste affect the way you will review this
The gathering
What is the function of the foyer and other gathering spaces in the theatre?
Describe the gathering?
What did the spectators do before the performance began (outside, inside, etc.)?
Structure of the performance
Does the structure of the written text hold together efficiently? Is it deliberately
loose structured? To what extent does the structure contribute to the play?
are the transitions from scene to scene effective?
How would you characterise the narrative structure of the play? Is it open, closed,
climactic, episodic, masculine, feminine?

Marvin Carlson defines the horizon of expectations as the framework created by the spectator within which
the play will be understood as one particular form of performance and not another
HARROWDRAMA Theatre Review
Harrow International School, Bangkok

Set Design
Did the set accurately reflect expressions in the written text, such as metaphors and
other linguistic images?
What were the spatial characteristics of the set which connected it to the fictional
world of the dramatic text which served as its source?
What were the onstage/offstage relations?
What were the auditorium/stage spatial relations?
Did the designer make effective use of the given space? Were the auditorium/stage
proportions taken into account?
To what extent did the set in general fit the spatial characteristics of the chosen
stage? Was the seating suitably arranged? To what extent was the spectators field
of vision accommodated?
Did the set serve the genre?
What was the nature of the set design? Was it designed to imitate reality (mimetic)
or a design that attempted a new vocabulary of visual conventions?
What were the spatial characteristics? Were they open or closed, wide or restricted,
empty or full?
Was there more than one set? How did the different colours co-ordinate? Did they
conform to the overall concept of the play?
Did the set enhance the actors possibilities or restrict them?
Which particular components of the set engaged your attention, positively or

HARROWDRAMA Theatre Review
Harrow International School, Bangkok

Lighting methods

Did the lighting design express the textual images (metaphors, symbols,
metonymies) of the play?
Do you think the lighting designer exploited the space in an interesting way?
What part of the lighting design play in creating an audience/stage relations?
To what extent was significant use made of light and shadow in the production?
How did the designer exploit colour, tone, and lighting angles to achieve
Did the lighting serve the genre of the play?
Did the lighting fulfil the demands of the set?
Did the lighting succeed in relating to a time of day or particular season (if demanded
by the text)?
To what extent did the lighting help or hinder the audience?
Which elements of the lighting engaged your attention, positively or negatively?

HARROWDRAMA Theatre Review
Harrow International School, Bangkok

Was the chosen style sufficiently clear? Did the actors keep to it throughout the
Did the acting tend towards psychological individualism or to the creation of stock
What were the relations between actor and role? Was the intention identification
(Stanislavski) or alienation (Brecht)
Describe the components of each actors stage presence (age, sex, gestic
presentation, voice)
How effectively did the actors exploit the space and possibilities offered by the
To what extent did the actors activate your imagination through their body
movements, gestures and facial expressions?
Did the actors movements appear suitable or unsuitable to the action, correct or
incorrect for the demands of the written text? Did they match or deviate from the
style of the play?
Did the production require the actors to dance or display any other physical skills?
To what extent were these demands fulfilled in an interesting manner? Did they
contribute to realising the play on stage?
How significant was the actors use of costume, masks or stage properties?
What did the actor achieve vocally by the use of accent, tone, rhythm, sung speech
or vocal characterisation?
To what extent did the actors appear to be involved with and understand the
narrative structure of the play?
Did the actors understand the technical demands of the genre (tragedy, comedy,
Restoration, farce) of the play?
Did the actors display a sense of timing?
Were the actors stage entrances and exits successful?
To what extent did each actor cooperate with the others?
How sensitive were the actors to audience response?
What did you particularly like about the acting and what do you consider deserved
negative criticism?

HARROWDRAMA Theatre Review
Harrow International School, Bangkok

Costume, makeup, hair and mask

Did the costumes contribute to creating a particular atmosphere?
How significant was the use the designer made of cut, style, colour, tone or types of
Did the costumes coordinate? Or were they deliberately designed to clash?
To what extent did the costumes appear to help the actor portray the role?
To what extent did the costumes and lighting plan coordinate?
Do you consider the hairstyles and makeup to have been successful?
What masks were used? Did they add to the significance of the play?
Do you consider there to have been coordination between the costume designer
(including hair and masks) the actors, and the set and lighting designers?
Which components of costume, makeup, hair, masks were interesting and which of
them appeared to you to be unnecessary or mistaken?

HARROWDRAMA Theatre Review
Harrow International School, Bangkok

Stage Properties

How many stage properties were there and was this significant?
Were there stage properties with a practical purpose?
Were there stage properties whose function was simply to enhance the set and
complement the historical and social background of the play?
Was there a repeated use of a particular property during the production turning it
into a motif of some kind?
Was there a prop which contained a functional importance to the narrative of the
play, directing the spectators expectations?
Did the play feature a prop that helped to express the psychological process?
Did the production make interesting use of stage properties? Did you find anything

HARROWDRAMA Theatre Review
Harrow International School, Bangkok

Music, sound effects

Did the music and sound effect components of the production help to clarify the
plays images, metaphors, or symbols, and did they assist the audience reception of
these images?
Were the music and sound effects, and their volume, suited to the theatrical space in
which they were performed?
To what extent did music and sound effects help the actors to portray their roles?
How significant was the use of silence, sound and music in creating a relevant
atmosphere and understanding of the genre?
Did the music and sound help to signify the time of day, the historical period or
location of a scene?
Did the use of sound help in the transitions from scene to scene?
How did the sound effects blend into the overall rhythm of the performance?
Did the performance feature a repeated musical line which developed into a motif?
Did the performance feature an ironic piece of music?
To what extent did the sound and music components integrate with the other
components of the production set, lighting, acting?
Which components of music and sound did you find the most and least successful?

HARROWDRAMA Theatre Review
Harrow International School, Bangkok
The Rhythm of the play
What was the general rhythm of the play?
Were there noticeable contrasts in rhythm through the use of silence and speech,
fast and slow pace, emphasis and lack of emphasis?
Were there instance of deliberate disruption of rhythm?
Did the rhythm help maintain tension and interest in the play?
Would you have altered the rhythm, entirely or in part?
The Directors Work
What place did the directors conception give to the playwrights text? Was it a
faithful reproduction, an archaeological adaptation or a concept which simply
used the written text as a starting point for developments using another sign
language such as movement and dance?
To what extent did the director understand the demands of the genre, particular
problems in the written text and the narrative structure of the play?
what historical, contemporary or imaginary signs did the director choose in order
to construct the fictional world?
How were cuts or separations into scene made? Did the director favour
continuity or fragmentation?
Did the director establish the right actors/audience relationship?
Did the work of the director show preference for the visual or the aural?
Did the director make effective use of the spatial characteristics of the theatrical
How effectively did the director use rhythm and pacing? How well did he or she
succeed in creating an atmosphere? How successful were the set pieces?
Did the director show control of exits and entrances, grouping on the stage,
reference to offstage, transitions from scene to scene and technical changes?
Was it possible to discern the directors ability to integrate effectively all the
components of the play or only some?
What did you consider to have been the positive and negative aspects of the
directors work?
To what extent did the work revitalise familiar theatrical conventions and
demolish clichs?
Were there striking examples of innovation in the production?
Did the desire to be original appear to be more important than performing the
written text in a refreshing and interesting way?

HARROWDRAMA Theatre Review
Harrow International School, Bangkok
The Spectator and Afterwards
Do you think the performance appealed to the entire audience?
What expectations did you have of the play and were these expectations fulfilled?
What do you consider to have been the spectators role during the performance?
Were you active or passive recipients, or somewhere in between?
Do you believe that the performance held the audiences interest? What was your
assessment about how the play was received by the audience?
What was the productions contract with the audience? Did the production set out
to amuse, to expound a social message, to evoke emotions, to create tensions, a
combination of these?
What did you particularly like about the performance? What fascinated you? What
amused you? What excited you?
What was disturbing in the production? What were its strong moments, its weak
moments and its boring moments?
Was the performance applauded, cheered and to what extent? Do you think the
applause was justified?
What was left most prominently in your memory after the performance and why?
Did the production remind you of other plays, or television dramas or movies? In
what way were they similar or different?