This mentor feedback is part of the LitNet | STAND theatre review workshop. The ten participants each submit a review to the workshop mentors for feedback. The participants will then be able to edit their submissions, receive additional feedback from the mentors and finalise their reviews.
This is the first feedback on version 1 of Ignus Rademeyer’s review.
Feedback from Tracy Saunders
Ignus has jumped into the deep end and chosen a particularly challenging piece to review. Monsters was not a conventional play or an easy subject, but the review has done well to present both the form and the content of the production. I appreciate the additional research and context added to the review. The documented facts which explain the genesis of the play and the detail about the director’s methodology cover both these facets well. The explanation of the semi-participatory nature of the play gives fair warning to the audience to guide any expectations they may have. It is always a good idea to include information for audiences where they may be required to participate, as not everyone is comfortable with the notion. One of the strengths of the review is the way in which Ignus has teased out the cautionary aspect of the text and described the feelings which indelibly mark the audience. Much of the impact of the play arises from the way the text is performed and presented, sometimes all at once and in different languages. This aspect of the performance is described well, and the parallel with a sense of moral unease is a good analogy.
I would have liked the events depicted in the play to be contextualised in a South African, particularly Western Cape context. Why relate a story of a murdered boy from England? Is there relevance or parallels for a local audience, and if so, what are they? Editing the opening paragraph for clarity would make for a tighter opening. Aside from some minor rephrasing and tighter editing, this is a good review which leaves the reader with a solid sense of the production.
Feedback from Nkgopoleng Moloi
What I enjoyed about Rademeyer’s review was that it focuses on different aspects of the production and offers a holistic view of it – from the storyline and script to the cast, technical aspects and the set, as well as consideration of audience engagement. Of course, with a short review it is difficult to give too much space to each of these in great detail. The overall structure of the text is good – it is clear and linear.
A key criticism of the writing style is the use of compounded sentences. It becomes very tedious for a reader to try and follow the thread when each sentence contains multiple ideas. Often, shorter sentences with one or two key ideas allow the text to flow better. For instance, the following sentences could be altered for clarity:
Monsters revolves around the shocking real-life story of the murder of James Bulgar, a two-year-old, committed by two ten-year-old boys, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson.
Before the show starts, Tinarie van Wyk Loots requests that two audience members must each read a part of the text when the microphone is pointed at the audience and it just so happens that it ends up being my two best friends, sitting next to me.
I would be careful of starting any review with a generalising statement such as We all have darkness within us unless this was a literary quote. These statements are seductive, but they are totalising and rarely substantiated.
Attention to detail adds weight to the text – this means paying attention to review writing conventions where necessary. For instance, the full title of the production should be used the first time it is mentioned. This also applies to key details that may affect later analysis; for example, noting the place where the murder of James Bulgar took place would allow the reader to make sense of the comment that the script was adapted for a South African audience. It is useful to provide more information about a cast/production team member so that the reader can contextualise the observation or judgment being offered on their skill or lack thereof. For instance, with the sentence Tinarie van Wyk Loots masterfully translated, some background information on Van Wyk Loots might help us understand how this work is judged in relation to other works, or how Van Wyk Loots is judged in relation to her contemporaries or the geographies from which she is working. It is also important to be specific with observations; what does “masterfully translated” actually mean?
I enjoyed how the writer was able to speak to the method used in the production through the very simple and clear image of musical chairs. The question of audience engagement was also adequately considered.
I found the strategy of “co-citation” to be very effective, that is, reading the work alongside Scandinavian auteurs such as Ingmar Bergman and Lars von Trier. However, this could be expounded upon with a little bit more nuance in terms of style, perhaps (surely we don’t evoke this tradition every time we use documentary style to deal with difficult topics).
Overall, this is a competent and compelling text with astute observations and ideas.