I’m relatively new to the world of theatre blogging. About eight months ago, I spotted a tweet from London Theatre Direct looking for people to join their blogging team, and thought I’d give it a try. When they said yes, it’s fair to say I was more than excited – not least because they were the first people to ever publish something I’d written.
My first post for LTD was a rant about bad behaviour in the theatre (talking, eating, using phones and the like), which is something I still get very worked up about, and will no doubt have a rant about on here before too long. And since that first post, life’s changed a bit; I now regularly review for London Theatre 1 as well as LTD, and I’m on the press list for a couple of local theatres. I’ll also usually write a review of anything I’ve actually paid to see – because there’s still plenty of those shows as well. It’s been a great few months, and I’m loving it, even if I’m not completely sure what I used to do with my time before.
If you’re thinking of becoming a theatre blogger, here are a few tips.
Be prepared to see a lot of shows
From making a resolution at the start of the year to get to at least one show a month, I’m now seeing on average 2 or 3 plays a week. I’ve discovered some great new theatres across London that I never knew existed, and seen several fantastic West End shows. My colleagues have stopped asking what I’m doing after work, and now just go straight to the more obvious question, ‘Which show is it tonight, then…?’ Be prepared also to see things you wouldn’t usually go to – I’ve found a few gems that way.
Get ready to network
I’m not very good at this, because I’m horrible at walking into a room full of people I don’t know and making conversation. But fortunately there are ways around that. I now spend a lot more time on Twitter than I used to, following actors, directors, playwrights, theatres and companies and occasionally saying hello if I’m feeling brave. I’ve made friends with other theatre bloggers too, and have even written a guest review for one of them (the very lovely Caroline at Carn’s Theatre Passion). All of which means when I finally meet them in person, we already sort of know each other. And even if I do have to meet complete strangers, at least I know we all have a love of theatre in common, which is a pretty safe place to start.
Don’t expect to sleep much
Because it generally takes me at least an hour to get home from a London performance, on a theatre night I’ll invariably be up till 1am or later, writing up my review while it’s fresh in my mind. I choose not to take notes during the play, so I usually spend the train journey home jotting down thoughts on my phone, before starting the review proper on the computer when I get in. The latest I’ve ever been up working was 4am, but that was a one-off. (And it was a Friday, so at least I could sleep in the next morning.) Generally a review will take me a couple of hours; sometimes a bit less if it flows easily.
Get familiar with star ratings
Not everyone uses star ratings; personally I don’t when I’m writing reviews for my own blog, but some of the sites I write for do, and it can be difficult to decide what to award. My instinct initially was to give pretty much everything five, because if I gave it any less, I felt a need to justify my decision by finding something wrong with the play. (Four somehow seems a lot less than five.) But since I learned that five stars means basically the best production of its kind ever made, I try to use them a little more sparingly – unless I genuinely think it was brilliant. Which I often do, because I’m far too nice.
I used to keep most of my diary in my head, and – a few minor double booking disasters aside – it worked pretty well. These days, I can’t do that, because I have so many plays booked in that it would just be asking for trouble. As soon as something’s confirmed, it goes in the diary on my phone, and then when I get home it goes on the calendar so I’ve got a back up. And it’s not just about dates; with theatres dotted all over London, it’s important to be familiar with the location beforehand, so as not to run in gasping for breath at the last minute – or, even worse, arrive late (especially if you’re representing another company).
Prepare to drink
Many theatres either have a reception at the interval of a press night show, where you’ll be plied with drinks and snacks, or they’ll thrust a drinks voucher into your hand when you collect your tickets. Either way, lately I’ve been finding myself drinking a lot more wine than I used to. Not that I’m complaining, but I just thought it was worth mentioning.
So there we have it: a brief guide to life as a theatre blogger. It’s a lot of fun, and I’d recommend it to anyone. You don’t need any qualifications, just a love for theatre and the ability to write about it. And we’re a friendly bunch, so why not join in the fun?
If anyone has any more tips to add, please share them in the comments 🙂