Stage 6 Drama – Portfolio of Theatre Criticism – Ballina High School – Student interview

[MUSIC PLAYING] JASON MARCHANT: My name is Jason Marchant. And for my HSC, I undertook a portfolio of theatre criticism. There was definitely a few experiences from year 11 which I brought into my HSC. The first was really the curriculum focusing on the elements of production and how a piece of theatre uses all the elements– so lighting, sound, acting, set design– to really create a work of art.

Another thing I brought from year 11 was we did an assessment at the beginning of the year, which we got to review a piece of theatre which we viewed in Brisbane. And it was a really good experience for me to actually have a go at reviewing a piece of theatre. And that made me realize that– actually analyzing how the production elements of the piece of theatre all came together off to create dramatic meaning on stage.

I do have a love for writing and analyzing texts, whether it be a book, a film, or a piece of theatre. So naturally, that is what I gravitated most towards when picking my individual project in year 12. It also gave me the opportunity to travel to other metropolitan areas, such as Sydney and Brisbane, to view different kinds of theatre I wouldn’t be able to usually see in my small rural town.

What I really wanted to communicate to my audience was that a piece of theatre isn’t really just about the acting or the set design or the performance in general. It’s, I think, that every piece of theatre has a statement to make. And what I really wanted to do is see how well the acting, the lighting, and the set came together to create that statement.

My option for the individual project pretty much stayed as theatre reviews for the entire year. I was, early on, thinking of doing performance. However, my strengths were analysis and writing. And that’s why I was keen to continue developing my theatre reviews.

With my logbook, before I saw each production, I would jot down anything I could about the context of the production so I could be on top of all the details that I would need to know before seeing that piece of theatre. After each production, I would go home, open up my logbook, and jot down every single detail I could recall in case there was any minute detail which would help me later on to flesh out an important idea.

I would also put any drafts of my theatre reviews in my logbook, any teacher feedback. And most importantly, I would put any details of online reviews that I would find helpful to develop my own voice as a writer and a reviewer.

One of the main challenges with my IP was getting my ideas onto the page as succinctly and with as much flair as possible. To overcome this, I would receive a lot of teacher feedback. And if he thought a paragraph needed to be reworked or a sentence needed to be reworked, I would go home, fix up the paragraph, and give it back to him until it was absolutely perfect.

There were definitely a few structures which were essential in developing my IP. The first one was that student-teacher collaboration and always and consistently handing drafts to my teacher and him giving me the feedback to keep developing those ideas. The second one was using external– other people’s reviews not necessarily to get ideas about the production but rather to see how other reviewers had their own personal and distinctive voice and how I could develop that myself and use that in my own reviews.

Advice I’d give students starting out now is if you consistently draft, start your project early, and constantly develop your ideas, your writing and analysis will get better. Another thing I would say to students starting the project now is be confident in your own voice and your own opinions.

One of the plays I reviewed, which was An Act of God, I put a negative take on it, which I received controversial feedback from my teacher, for example. However, I stuck with my genuine opinions of the play and developed those opinions into what I think was a good review.


In my experience with theatre reviews, one thing that I think students need to take away is not to look at the reviews as a checklist. Don’t think you need to talk about lighting and then set and then acting. Rather, flesh out key moments from the piece and talk about how all those things came together to create meaning onstage.

End of transcript

Content updated 22/9/2020

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