Friday, March 18, 2011

Reviewing just got easier (in a way)

I used to do regular website reviews but stopped when the main site I wrote for ran into problems. It was nice to go along to shows for a while without the need to spend two or three hours actually writing the review in exchange for two complimentary tickets.

Now I'm delighted to be accepted as an 'official reviewer' for a website called Remotegoat.

First I had to write a test review so I chose a venue in nearby Brockley. I didn't realise the play was the third in a trio of competition-winning plays by South London playwrights.

As it was a Wednesday night I decided no need to book, even though the theatre is tiny. But I met a stressed out young woman in the pub bar worried about getting in. It seems she'd booked tickets for herself and four colleagues in error for the night before and come along hoping to change the tickets but heard it was fully booked. She was upset because the producer's sister was a colleague. It was touch and go, but all got in.

Beforehand we had a chat with her and her pals about what it was like to live in Brockley. Really good, it seems, especially since the East London rail-link opened.

Another young woman sitting next to us said her tutor at Roehampton had written the play and she'd travelled from Wandsworth. People at big theatre events are polite enough as a rule, but can't compare with the enthusiasm and interest of the audience at a local event.

We both enjoyed Keeping Mum, a play about a Caribbean couple, newly arrived in England, facing the coldest winter on record (1962-3).

My first 'official' review was of a play I picked from a long list of local and West End events. I was attracted by the novelty of a 'site-specific' play that had a contemporary political theme.

As it was to take place in an Office block near St James's tube station I immediately thought to ask my young friend Joanna the Westminster guide, as she's an office worker and this is right in her territory. I told her on Facebook to be prepared for 'bad language, violence and sexual content.' It couldn't be any stronger than some of Roy's film choices.

I thought Quango 93 was a great example of experimental theatre and I'd like to see more of the group's productions. They originated in Newham, a borough I used to teach in.

The upside of reviewing for Remotegoat is having the website managers forward requests to the event managers. The downside is having to learn the site protocol and deal with the automated submission/request system. After a couple of date mix-ups, though, I've arranged a couple of future events, one local and one in the West End.

'Once a month is enough', said Roy. 'You don't want to become stressed.'

But I think once a week, with the following morning free to write the review, will be fine.

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