How did you celebrate the fourth annual #LoveTheatreDay on Twitter yesterday? MyTheatreMates’ latest addition Debbie Gilpin (who runs Mind the Blog) marked the occasion online by sharing this great insight into a day in the life of theatre blogger. Do you think you could do it?
I thought one way of marking the day would be to take you through a typical day for me. As with most bloggers (and probably a rising proportion of critics in general) I’m not paid to do this, and I have a full-time job around which I have to balance my writing. I have to admit that I would love to get paid to write – it is my passion, after all, and it would also give me the chance to get a bit more rest every now and then!
But I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities I’m offered as an unpaid critic. The amount of shows that I get to see is staggering (and for free!), and I was even lucky enough earlier in the year to cover the Olivier Awards for BroadwayWorld UK (interviewing stars on the red carpet, and winners in the press room at the Royal Albert Hall). No matter how knackered I am, I always remember this – and that I choose to keep going.
What you also can’t deny is that it is hard work. Even with enthusiasm to push you through, it can be a real slog – especially if you end up at several below par shows in quick succession, or if you organise too many reviews that need a quick turnaround in a short space of time. Writing a review is a creative process that requires concentration and an analytical thought process; it’s not something that you can do automatically, no matter how good you are! I nearly always take notes (depending on the type of show, and how exposed I am to the performers onstage), which acts as a memory jog for plot points of new shows, but also allows me to collect quotes or write down my impressions or good lines for my review as they come to me – that definitely speeds up the process.
So what I thought I’d do is give you a taste of a ‘typical’ day for me! In case you’re still under the illusion that we unpaid critics “have it easy”, or to give you a better idea of the commitment you need if you’re thinking of starting up yourself.
Transport yourselves back to Monday 6th November 2017. It’s a chilly morning, and my alarm goes off at 6am – I need to be ready and out of the house in just over an hour to catch my train. The temperature (and the fact that it’s still dark) make this an extra challenge, but I down my porridge and coffee and head out. I live in south-east London, but I work in north-west London – perversely, getting the train to Cannon Street is the most comfortable & efficient way of getting to the office by 8.30am…
I work for Imperial College, doing admin support for the surgical training programme at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington; another part of my job is to help with making some of the silicone models that are used in the training sessions, but the paperwork side is taking priority at the moment. It’s an 8.30am-4.30pm day, as the sessions begin at 9am and between us we need to let the trainees in, as well as set the lab up. Once they get started, all I need to remember to do is get some biscuits ready for their break – we treat them nicely here!
After that, much of my day is spent catching up on scanning feedback letters and emailing them out. Not difficult, but time-consuming when there are several sessions’ worth! I also co-ordinate the admin for another surgical training programme, so I had a few last-minute emails from those trainees prior to the sessions coming up later that week.
It was a lovely, bright day, so I took advantage of this on my lunch break and wandered down to Little Venice. It’s a lovely little spot; the Puppet Theatre Barge and the Canal Café Theatre (above the Bridge House pub) are both situated around there, and it’s just a nice quiet haven away from the noise of roads and building sites. I managed to catch up on a bit of writing while I was down there, before strolling back to work. To finish off my break I managed to post an interview with Mark Mander.
Once I finished work I decided to take a leisurely route down to that evening’s theatre, hopping on the 36 before taking a brisk, cold walk from Pimlico, along the Victoria Embankment, to Trafalgar Studios on Whitehall. I happened to be covering the press night of Patrick Marber’s The Red Lion down in Studio 2 for the blog that evening – I really enjoyed the original production at the National in 2015, so it was wonderful to be invited to see how it had developed. And I even managed to run into a familiar face while I was there!
It was what all critics dream of: a 7pm start and a 95-minute running time! Whilst I do still love an epic (or something in between), kicking off the week with an early starting short show really is the best. And the theatre is a very short walk away from the station, which is even better.
I had been taking notes during the performance, but I also try to draft out some more coherent thoughts on my phone on the journey home. When I write for BroadwayWorld UK I have to get the review out either that night or early the next morning, so I’ve now got quite used to writing on my phone – it’s a quick way to transfer everything you’ve written, plus you can usually get on with typing away even if someone squashes in next to you.
As often as possible, I try to read before I go to bed. There has been quite a range of literature recently (from a puppetry reader to a book about Hitler), but this time I fancied something a little different; as my commute read had been the script for The Scottish Play, I continued the Shakespeare theme with a book about his poems and sonnets.
And that’s that! Not an easy task (although it varies wildly from day to day), but one that I’m very glad I put myself through. Do you think you could do it?
Tags:#LDNTheatreBloggers, #LoveTheatreDay, Barb Jungr, BroadwayWorld UK, Canal Café Theatre, Little Venice, Live at Zédel, London, Love Theatre Day, Macbeth, Olivier Awards, Oliviers, Patrick Marber, press night, Puppet Theatre Barge, Royal Albert Hall, Shakespeare, The Red Lion, The Scottish Play, theatre, Trafalgar Studios, William Shakespeare
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