DTR’s Style Guide for Reviewers

We don’t edit your reviews. Instead we give you space to experiment with and hone your own individual writing style. We do have some basic rules and general advice, which we expect you to be familiar with before you write your first review for us. Remember: any student can be a DTR reviewer, no experience necessary and no huge time commitment required; all spaces are allocated on a first come first served basis.

The Basics

Conflict of Interest

You are ineligible to review a show if you have been involved in the production process in any way or if you feel you know a cast member or a member of the production team too well to give your honest opinion. If you fail to declare a conflict of interest that is subsequently flagged up, this matter will be taken very seriously and could lead to your review being discounted and removed from the site.

Arriving at the venue

We expect our reviewers to arrive at least 20 minutes before the start time of the production so make sure you take this into account when calculating how long it will take you to get to the venue

Watch the production in full

The production must be watched in full in order for the review to be fair and valid (so no walking out half-way through, even if the rest of the audience does)

Sharing your opinion

You should not discuss your star rating with the other DTR reviewer at the show before the reviews go online as it is crucial that your rating is not influenced by your fellow reviewer

Length of reviews

Reviews should be between 350 and 700 words long, but longer reviews will be accepted

The deadline

Reviews must be submitted online by 10am on the day after the performance you attended. If for any reason you are unable to adhere to this deadline, the editor must be informed immediately. It may damage your chances of reviewing for us in the future

Cast names

Please include the names of cast members & production team where appropriate. If this information is not already on the show's events page, you should make sure you request it from the box office when you arrive at the venue

What to Look Out for During the Performance

  • The acting ability of individuals
  • How the actors worked as an ensemble
  • The effectiveness of particular directorial decisions
  • How special effects, music, props, dance, comedy, etc, were integrated into the production and with what success
  • Contextual elements surrounding the play
  • Connections and cultural references

The Write Up

Your first paragraph

Your first paragraph should clearly set up where the review is heading: was the show a triumph or a flop? Are you aiming the review at potential audience members or the production team and cast?

Plot Synopses

Long, detailed synopses are unnecessary. DTR has already published information about the event so do not spend too many words outlining the plot (this becomes especially tedious when there are two plot-focused reviews of a single show)

Your criticism

Constructive, articulate, specific criticism is much more credible than vague, gratuitous, personal attacks

Your criticisms must be fully explained to be justified: if you feel that something didn’t work, articulate why it didn’t work

Should your review make personal attacks without clear reasoning or restraint you will be held fully accountable for any repercussions your comments might have

It is often really helpful to give an idea of how your opinion clashed or agreed with the general audience’s response

Your review and star rating must support one another: a review with five stars attached must be a five star review, a review with two stars attached that is generally complimentary and fails to identify the production’s shortcomings is misleading and lacks credibility.

The production

In your review it is important to take account of the production’s level of professionalism: make sure your review acknowledges that a play is a sixth form school production, or that the actors are all university students.

Star ratings

Ratings should be awarded according to the following system:


Although we are asking you to draw attention to the professional standard of the production company, this should not affect the star rating you give. Your ratings should be as consistently judged as possible.

Five stars should be reserved for a truly outstanding production by anyone’s standards: it should give you a buzz that makes you want to turn to the person next to you as you leave the auditorium to exclaim how excellent it was. One star should also be awarded rarely, and only to productions that are completely and utterly lacking in skill, creativity and potential.

Grammar, spelling and typos

We have a policy of not editing reviews apart from in exceptional circumstances so please make sure you have checked your piece very carefully before you submit it. Your reviews will only be subject to minor sub-editing (correcting grammar, spelling and typos).

Your Style

Personality is a crucial element of any review. In giving your opinion, convey who you are to the reader, give them an idea of your tastes and even your sense of humour where possible

Avoid repletion: try to come up with other ways of saying "this show"

If you are unsure about how well your piece flows, try reading your review aloud before submitting it

Editorial feedback is available on request and will be offered in exceptional circumstances where we feel that the review does not adhere to our standards and values.

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