Some time ago in this column, I discussed the issue of length of reviews. In the end, I concluded that reviews work in any length; it all depends on the production, the style of the review and the publication. However, there are times when reviews are just simply the wrong lengths. While I appreciate what each author was trying to do in the following reviews, I think they would benefit from switching review lengths, Freaky Friday-style.
In the case of Anna Fuerstenberg’s review of Faust in The Rover, the issue is that it’s way too short to even give me a hint about the feel of the production. All I get from the review is that Faust is hysterical and I should go see it. However, not much is said about why it’s funny or why it’s not to be missed.
Fuerstenberg does mention that Faust is done in the style of reader’s theatre. Since I don’t know much about this style, I would have liked a little more description. In 151 words, the only hint I get as to why this show is so delightful is that the actor who played Mephistophiles was hysterical.
This review was clearly meant to make me call up the Segal Centre and snap up tickets to Faust immediately. It really didn’t – personally, I need a little bit more enticing information to make me believe that this production was as amazing as the reviewer wants me to think.
The Montreal Gazette’s Pat Donnelly has the opposite problem; her review for Yukonstyle goes just a little too long. Not only do I get a picture of each of the main characters, but I also get a profile of all their motivations. This makes me feel like I’m getting spoilers. Much like movie trailers, reviews are best when they leave a little something to the imagination. Besides, the set-up of Yukonstyle is enough to get me interested; four people trying to get along while trapped indoors by the Yukon winter? I’m in. However, Donnelly’s review gets into the plot so much that I feel like I’ve seen part of the show already.
Writing reviews is striking a difficult balance, and I’ve struggled with that as well. It’s hard to strike just the right middle ground between not enough and too much. Sometimes a review is too long, others it’s too short, and it’s complicated to find a way to make it just right.