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 Klara van Rooyens’s review.
Feedback from Tracy Saunders
Klara has done well in contextualising this piece and the broader work undertaken by the Karoo Kaarte project. Background information is not always necessary in a review, but as it is such an essential part of this work, the additional information is very relevant. Many of the phrases used in the review aptly describe the sensibility of the piece as well as alluding to the subject matter. “Sticky with memory” is a particularly favourite phrase of mine. She has depicted the use of shadow puppets perfectly and really conveyed a sense of their presence to the reader. Her tempering of praise with a caution against excess, but being mindful of what trimming the text would do, is presented in a thoughtful manner and does not seem like criticism for the sake of it. I would be interested to learn more about the actors and who the professional actors in the play were. What was their interaction with members of the cast who are not professionally trained? Given that they “move together with an instinctual fluidity”, is this inclusive of the professional cast, or is it a feature of the Oudtshoorn-based cast? The reflective nature of the work, which is echoed in the line “transported to both their childhood memories and your own”, is conveyed admirably. Klara has a very clear understanding of the design elements of the piece and has presented them in a manner which does each element justice. Not an easy feat. The review is as she describes the play itself, a work of honesty and authenticity.
Feedback from Nkgopoleng Moloi
Van Rooyen’s review is very thorough and astute. She manages to plough through a lot of information in a concentrated and readable manner, allowing the review to be quite comprehensive. This is good but also presents challenges for a review of this length.
I enjoyed the apt title for the text – it is enticing and provides a good sense of what is to follow. The introduction is strong, as it places the reader in the theatre space and allows them to imagine themselves in that space, something that is crucial for a visual and immersive medium such as theatre. The choice to foreground information about Oudtshoorn was effective because in this production, place is integral and inextricably linked to the work.
Part of what makes a review strong is the ability to discern and prioritise which parts of the production the writer wants to focus on. This assessment allows for a richer analysis of specific aspects in a manner that offers the reader real insight. The text could benefit from a more disciplined approach as to what the key points are that need to be delved into deeper (with examples and references), which to merely nod to and which to exclude completely. The more focus, the better.
Although the conclusion is very compelling, it introduces new concepts that the writer has not spent time on in the text. For instance, the notion of archiving histories is topical and would have made for an interesting angle through which to read the work. At this later stage, it merely reads as an afterthought/throwaway comment and is therefore less impactful.
What is missing from the review is a sense of how the production transpires instead of what it is about. In the same way that we have a sense of what the cast members are doing in the opening paragraph, we need to have a good sense of what they are doing during the production – where and how is the cast placed, and how do these decisions impact the work? This is important because a big part of critically analysing creative output goes beyond the narrative structure and considers the form as well.
Attention to small details goes a long way in making the review more readable and coherent. This is done effectively through an assessment of the script and how it was crafted. Clear descriptors followed by evidence from the production would add weight to the comments made by the writer. For instance, with the paragraph beginning The entire ensemble needs to be commended. They move together with an instinctual fluidity, allowing for smooth sailing, what examples can the writer draw on to showcase this?
The text could benefit from citations to validate claims as well as to add a richer texture to the ideas. For instance, when referencing the South African theatre landscape or audience fatigue toward overtly political theatre, the reader needs to know where such comments are drawn from. Are they merely opinions, are they reflected in popular media, etc?
Overall, this is a very competent text but could benefit from a more methodical approach through careful planning and attention to a defined outline.