There is much debate as to whether Student Theatre and emerging companies should be reviewed in the same way professional theatre is, should we label with star ratings and possibly cripple confidence or indeed inflate ego’s too far by making allowances for age and lack of experience? Is there value in critiquing newbies to the world of theatre?
Well, yes there is. How do you gain exposure without reviews, without support, without encouragement and maybe someone to tell you what a terrible job you are doing? If that is enough to make you throw in the towel then my theory is you just don’t want it enough. Take those bad reviews, take that one star and work your ass off to make it next time round. No one gets there first time in anything. Take JK Rowling for example, numerous rejections for what is now one of the biggest franchises on the planet.
As a reviewer for the Fringe Festival I made a point of focusing my attention on the smaller venues often overlooked and in doing so, uncovered a few gems that were extremely grateful of some exposure. The stand out performance came from Blind Elephant, a company comprising of the four young actors in the production, as they tackled the meaty subject matter of Endgame, by Samuel Beckett. The strength of acting, producing and even make up skills were incredible. They proved that age counts for nothing but talent and drive counts for everything.
Another hidden gem came from small youth group Roses Company with the youngest amongst them being 17, a tight performance with a strong storyline filled with humour and sad realities, tied together by an excellent soundtrack. The youths themselves created the majority of everything seen and heard on stage, demonstrating impressive skills that will take them far.
There are a wealth of opportunities at universities and within communities for those looking to simply explore their skills or break into the business of performance, joining a group looking to make it big requires thick skin and strength of character. Putting yourself in the position to be reviewed means you want to make it in that world and you are prepared to take all that comes with it.
Ambitious groups who strive to make the theatre they want to make, regardless of age or experience, deserve to be seen and deserve to be valued. They don’t need condescension or for arrogance to dampen their enthusiasm, just the opportunity. Isn’t that what we all need sometimes?