Archive | December 2015

“How to Write about Theatre” by Mark Fisher – a manual for critics, students and bloggers

mark fisher bookMark Fisher studied Theatre at the University of Kent and has been reviewing theatre since the late 1980s when he began working for the arts and events what’s on magazine, The List, in Edinburgh.  He then founded the magazine, Theatre Scotland, and now works as a freelance writer, most notably The Herald and The Guardian.  Based on personal experience covering the Edinburgh Festivals over many years, he published a “Survival Guide to The Edinburgh Fringe”, the largest arts festival on the planet.

“How to Write about Theatre” is therefore written with a broad professional background in theatre – from playwrights, performance, production and the media.  This is a comprehensive, astutely researched, academic guide to theatre criticism with historical and cultural insight.

Chapter I starts with a succinct clarification of The Job:    “Writing about theatre is an act of translation, turning the language of performance into the language of words” ………which leads the reader on a journey to develop the literary skills, linguistic style and informed opinion for an accomplished, polished, professional theatre review.

The business of “reviewing” contemporary life at leisure in general has changed radically in recent years when anyone with an positive or negative opinion on a restaurant, hotel, book, music, film or a play can publish views on Facebook, Trip Advisor and Blog sites.

The publication of professional Theatre reviews began seriously in the 1770’s, avidly read in daily newspapers, weekly and periodical magazines.  Allessadro Manzoni was an Italian dramatist who in 1819 analysed the purpose and essential nature of theatre criticism, which he said should be based on three questions: What were the theatre-makers trying to achieve, how well did they succeed, and was it worth it.?

William Archer - foremost champion and translator of Henrik Ibsen

William Archer – foremost champion and translator of Henrik Ibsen

The great critics of the 18th and 19th century were often playwrights, poets and novelists themselves – including William Archer (early translator of Ibsen and pioneer for a National Theatre) and his close friend,  George Bernard Shaw.  As theatre professionals, their intelligent, outspoken, often satirical,  opinion mattered.  But how does a budding journalist gain the ability to judge the merits of a play?

Fisher offers pertinent advice on how to evaluate the quality of a production in order to give your personal opinion. The starting point must be that you undertand the dramatic genre, setting, directorial aim and theatrical style in order to assess the play with informed insight.

Throughout the book, there are some wonderful quotations from archive and contemporary reviews to illustrate how to write with conviction.   Shaw’s advice was “Get your facts right”.   A review is based on your experience of the play with a clear argument to back up your subjective viewpoint.

Kenneth Tynan

Kenneth Tynan

As Kenneth Tynan wrote, ” I doubt if I could love anyone who did not wish to see Look Back in Anger… the best young play of the decade.”   His newspaper readers and theatre-goers may have disagreed, but there’s no denying his passion and sincerity in his review.   It also demonstrates the extraordinary value of a glowing review, to promote a new writer and play.


This book is like a series of literary tutorials with exercises to practice your literary style, language and voice.   In twenty chapters, every topic is covered in depth – crafting the first sentence,  libel v. fair comment, how to define good acting, and the valuation of the 1- 5 star review, turning words into a number.  The critic is also a performer, an entertainer with his or her own script.

Jude Law as Henry V

Jude Law as Henry V

“How to Write About Theatre”, is an inspirational, constructive manual for all theatre professionals.   It is a also a fascinating overview for theatre lovers to understand the cultural relevance, truth, knowledge, sincerity, wit and humour behind the fine art of dramatic criticism.

“How to Write About Theatre” by Mark Fisher.  Bloomsbury  ISBN 978-1-4725-2054-8






Generation 3 – Christmas exhibition of arts and crafts at Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh

Christmas is the time of year when families gather together – the annual pilgrimage most of us will make soon, as captured in song from Sinatra’s “I’ll be home for Christmas” to “Driving home for Christmas” from Chris Rea.

For the Rollinson family they have planned a different kind of reunion for us all to share and enjoy. Generation 3 is a collective exhibition to showcase the arts and crafts representing three generations.

Vicky Ware - ceramic decoration

Vicky Ware – ceramic decoration

Starting a few decades ago with Peter and Rosemary’s Scottish saddlery business, their children and grandchildren have inherited the creative gene and developed their own distinctive artistic talent from glassware and jewellery to pottery and photography.

Generation 3After retirement, Peter Rollinson has developed his passion for cine, video and still photography in which to observe the natural world, flowers, trees and landscape, through the camera lens. As he explains the background to his art: “We tend to overlook something that is small, or that is a small part of a larger image. We may pass a dry stone wall every day and not see the different coloured stones used, or the fern growing from it. Or really see an old letterbox, a lone lobster pot or a tree stump. ”

Aged just 16, Natasha Rollinson began working with silver at a Summer course at Edinburgh College of Art which led to studying jewellery at the University of Ulster, and then training as a goldsmith. Her fine jewellery is based on traditional techniques matched by modern design.

Bubbles necklace - Natasha Rollinson

Bubbles necklace – Natasha Rollinson

Angelika Rollinson trained as a dressmaker in an atelier in southern Germany,  later making costumes for the Deutsche Oper Berlin.   Just like Vivienne Westwood who loves using Scottish textiles,  she has designed a range of Harris Tweed ladies’ capes for this exhibition.

Scottish style - Harris Tweed cape by Angelika Rollinson

Scottish style – Harris Tweed cape by Angelika Rollinson

And then we move from wool to leather:  William Rollinson worked in his family’s business and trained as a saddler. Today he makes and repairs saddles as well as creating quality leather products, dog collars, bags and gun cases. He also built his own Tipi Tent for camping on canoeing and fishing trips around Scotland.

Beautiful glassware by Sue Jack

Beautiful glassware by Sue Jack

Sue Jack trained in architectural glass at University of Wales and now divides her time between Edinburgh and Sutherland where she has an eco friendly house and glass design studio overlooking the sea towards Harris and the mountains of Assynt and Coicach. Inspired by the rugged wild landscape, Sue creates sculptural pieces and art works from kiln formed glass.

Sue Jack - decorative glass

Sue Jack – decorative glass

The new BBC series, The Great British Pottery Throw Down may encourage viewers to try their hand with throwing some clay … just as the ever popular Great British Bake Off show did with all those tempting cakes, buns and tarts.

Vicky Ware - rustic farmhouse crockery

Vicky Ware – rustic farmhouse crockery

Vicky Ware is the archetypal artisan potter, working and teaching in a studio at her home, a converted barn in rural Wales. Her handmade earthenware pots range from colourfully decorative glazed ceramics to functional plates, bowls and kitchenware.

Vicky Ware - artistic ceramics

Vicky Ware – artistic ceramics

And her rustic Terracotta Bread Pots sell like hot cakes!

As Vicky describes the creative design process … “ Hand thrown using grogged earthenware clay and fired to a rich toasted terracotta, each one is slightly different and has a spiral inside which gives the traditional crescia pattern to the loaf. The handles, as well as being part of the design, are a practical way of holding the pot to remove the bread.

Terracotta Bread Pots by Vicky Ware

Terracotta Bread Pots by Vicky Ware

“My pots are good for all types of bread and especially for sourdough, as you can prove and bake the loaf in the mould, retaining the texture and lightness of your dough”.

These beautiful moulds have revolutionised the way I bake! I have never had such a light and fluffy sourdough – the best loaf I have made.”  Kelli DiCapri – Artisan Baker

Generation 3 is a fantastic, diverse collection of exquisitely hand made and beautifully crafted artwork made with love and care – perfect gifts for your family and friends this Christmas.

Dundas Street Gallery,  Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH2 6HZ

28th November to 5th December, 2015 – 11am – 6pm daily.

For more information,  contact: