Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Review Squared, March 12, 2013

Delivering Good News and Bad News
by Valerie Cardinal

When I set out to write my column this week, I already had an idea in mind. However, I’ll talk about that a little later. First, I need to talk about a gem I found while researching; this review of Ride the Cyclone, which just ended its run in Edmonton last weekend. 

The first line of Paul Blinov’s review grabbed my attention right away. “The rollercoaster, we're told, derailed at the peak of its loop, sending the six members of Uranium, Saskatchewan's teenage choir plummeting to their graves.” Now that’s how you open an article. I find that too few reviews pay enough attention to their openings. Since I have a soft spot for dark humour, I was immediately intrigued. Based on the rest of the review Blinov manages to capture the tone of the production perfectly with just one punchy sentence. 

With all kinds of madness apparently going down on stage, I like that Blinov still takes the time to compliment the show’s set design, costumes, writing and direction. 

A successfully staged autotuned rap number? ‘70s sci-fi pulp? Space cats? Someone get me a bus ticket and a time machine, stat.

Blinov goes on to describe the plot related to that bonkers opening line. In doing so, he manages to strike a difficult balance between saying just enough to entice readers and not revealing so much that they feel they’ve seen the show already. 

Being a fan of all things camp, this review got me excited, especially when Blinov goes into his favorite parts of Ride the Cyclone. A successfully staged autotuned rap number? ‘70s sci-fi pulp? Space cats? Someone get me a bus ticket and a time machine, stat. 

Now, on to what I intended to discuss this week; how to write about a play you didn’t like. I’ve been there, and I think it sucks. I pride myself in being a nice person and I feel a little bad when I have to write overwhelmingly negative things about a show I didn’t enjoy. I always try to do my critiquing as gently as possible. 

Which is why I appreciated this review of Glendale, which shows how to gracefully write about a show you didn’t really like. Straight.com’s Kathleen Oliver doesn’t exactly pan the show; instead, she focuses on the one aspect that didn’t work for her. 

The part that Oliver wasn’t on board with was the writing. As I am taking a class in writing for the stage at the moment, I appreciated that this review doubled as a mini-summary of playwriting. Although I haven’t seen the production, I think Oliver’s comments are harsh but fair. I like that she took the time to point out what didn’t work rather than simply stating, “The writing sucked.” 

I find it difficult to write negative reviews because often times a lot of work and heart was put into the productions. Therefore, I always try to find something redeeming, interesting or worth seeing in each production. Theatre is a tough business and unless the show is a complete and total waste of time, I’d like to encourage it. 


  1. I disagree with your comments.If you actually saw the play then I think you would have a right to make your comment,s .The play got another really great reveiw in the reveiw vancouver ,and I thought the reviewer actually watched the show instead of trying to tell the playwrite how to write.Lot,s of people enjoyed the play which had a successful run despite a bias review.

  2. I think you're missing the point of Ms Cardinal's column. She discusses the art of reviewing not the plays themselves.

  3. I don,t think that I am the one missing the point.


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