Inviting me to review a play

Unlike the big review players, I don’t operate on a basis of review by invitation. Almost everything I’ve reviewed is a play that I would have seen anyway. However, I do get the occasional invitation to review a play, particularly at the Edinburgh Fringe. I’ve learnt that in the Fringe Theatre setting, every review counts, even reviews on self-published blogs like this one. On the other hand, I do like the fun of scanning through the programme, picking what takes my fancy, and seeing what I get, and that’s something you lose if your viewing is set by review invitations.

So here’s the deal … At the Edinburgh Fringe, I will set a limit of a third of my plays as an invited reviewer. Typically, another third will be plays I wants to see, and the rest I will decide on when I’m there using traditional techniques such as who flyered me in the most memorable way. This means I’ve got a limit of 8 or 9 plays as an invited reviewer. This usually means I can say yes to everything I’m invited to, although very rarely I’ve had to say no if scheduling doesn’t work out. In the event it’s contested, I will decide based on which press releases appeal to me the most. (I will give equal consideration to groups that contact me up to one week before the official start of the fringe – after that, it’s first come first served.)

In general, I only come to review theatre. I have bent the rules for comedy when it’s got a crossover with theatre, but in general I don’t see enough comedy acts to be able to give a fair review. You’ll have to find a comedy blogger. Finally, I may sometimes decline to review a play if it’s material I clearly wouldn’t like. It’s a waste of my time, and it’s not fair on the show I’m reviewing if there’s no chance I’d recommend them. This is similar to how most review publications work – you will either get a reviewer who liked the sound of your play, or no reviewer at all.

If I come, here are the rules:

  • I will expect a complimentary ticket if I’m reviewing by invitation. When I’m going to see a play anyway, I’ll happily do a review as a freebie, but if I’m coming because you asked me to, I’ll want the same that other reviewers expect.
  • I write reviews according to my Reviews Policy. In particular, please note I do not write reviews of every play I see: I only write about those that stand out, either because it’s a good production, or it has potential as a good production. At festival fringes, plays that make it will go into me live coverage during the fringe, and the roundup afterwards.
  • If you do not make it into my roundup, I will happily say what I thought about the play if you ask – but you will need to ask. Bear in mind that, unlike Fringe Review, failure to reach the roundup doesn’t necessarily mean the play was bad – it might have been a decent production that simply didn’t manage to stand out from the competition.
  • Please refrain from asking if you’ll be getting a review straight after the performance. It may take a few days for me to make a decision, and if you rush me into making one I’ll be more likely to go for the one you didn’t want.
  • No horse trading please. I appreciate any support other people give for my plays, but I cannot offer you a more favourable hearing in return. Likewise, there are no return favours for following me on Twitter.

It’s rare for me to be invited to shows outside of the Edinburgh Fringe, so I make the rules up as I go along the rest of the year. Well, one obvious point: I live in Durham. If you invite me to a play in London, it’s highly unlikely I’ll be travelling to see it (unless – yes never know – I’m in London anyway and I don’t have any other plans).

So, does this still appeal to you? If so, Contact Me and invite me along.

UPDATE: As I’m now getting requests for fringes outside of Edinburgh, I’d better formalise the system a bit further. So … for Brighton, I will run the same system as Edinburgh – however, if you are performing in the same venue chain as me, the review will be embargoed until after I’ve gone home. This is to avoid conflicts on interest. For Buxton Fringe and any other smaller fringes I go to, all reviews will be embargoed, because in fringes of this size everybody knows each other. Embargoes might be waived if I see something exceptional.

And, of course, whether I can review you depends on whether your show is on when I’m down there, and this largely comes down to luck. Other than that, the rules are about the same.

UPDATE 2: With effect from 2017, I have am setting two categories of things I won’t review at all at Edinburgh. The first one is stand-up comedy, simply because I don’t see enough stand-up to give a meaningful judgement. The other is classic texts, including Shakespeare, but probably also everything prior to Widle/Shaw. This is because I’ve never really got Old English dialogue, even though other people rave about it, so I’m not really in a position to tell people what Shakespeare etc. is and isn’t worth seeing. This may be waived for companies with exceptional reputations for staging, but expect that to be a rarity.

This only applies to Edinburgh. Outside of Edinburgh, where seeing one play is less likely to come at the expense of another, I am more likely to give this a go. And in all cases, you are welcome to give me a complimentary ticket anyway if you so wish – just don’t expect to get anything out of it.

Last updated 24th July 2017.

One thought on “Inviting me to review a play

  1. Ian (Shadow Syndicate) July 3, 2018 / 4:24 pm

    Hi Chris, thanks again for the mention of us in your 2018 Buxton Fringe recommendations. We’d love you to review our show if you’re available on Sat 14th or Sun 15th? If you are just let us know which date suits best and we’ll arrange a complimentary ticket. Thanks 🙂

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