This is an explanation of the FringeReview ratings for our reviews.
We have recently revised our ratings again, after dropping the use of star ratings a few years ago.
Reviewers choose a rating they decide is most appropriate for rating the show they are reviewing.
Our ratings are not simplistic and our core assumption is that a rating is best interpreted by the person reading the review.
If a show is rated less than “Good” by our reviewer, the review is not published. Instead, private feedback is offered to the performing company. FringeReview is a guide to good (or better) Fringe work.
There is deliberate overlap between our ratings. We do not see our readers as needing to be treated as simple-minded. Our ratings are based on a diverse view of the world and the belief that people make considered decisions about where they spend their fringe money.
A GOOD SHOW is not personally recommended by the reviewer, but has enough strengths and virtues to still be written about by the reviewer. The review is written constructively with evidence provided as to why the show has good qualities, as well as steps that can be taken to improve the work and to bring it to a recommended category. With so many shows on offer at the typical Fringe festival, a good show is still worth bringing to the attention of the public, and the reviewer leaves it to the public to decide if they want to see it.
A RECOMMENDED show is a very good show with strengths and virtues that lead the reviewer to want to recommend it be seen by potential audience members. A recommended show demonstrates many strengths and is impressive for its intention and achievement. A reviewer will provide evidence on why the show is very good and why it is worth buying a ticket to see. It certainly has room for improvement and constructive suggestions are offered on how the show could become excellent. As a piece of work the show has specific qualities that lead the reviewer to want to suggest the show is seen almongst many other shows on offer at the Fringe. It may be a very ambitious show that han’t yet delivered fully on its promise but the experiment is worth seeing. In the balance of the review, the reviewer wants the reader to know they recommend the work.
A HIGHLY RECOMMENDED show is an excellent show – an “A grader”. This show demonstrates excellence in its conception, design, writing or devising, its delivery, direction and so on. The reviewer will provide evidence as to why this show is excellent. But the show may not be perfect. It may need improvement but its foundation is excellent and the reviewer perticuarly wants to strongly recommend this work is seen for both its quality and its ambition. In the balance of the review, the reviewer wants the reader to know they strongly recommend the work.
A MUST SEE SHOW will tend to be a high quality show that the reviewer believes is not to be missed. This will often be because it has qualities that make it stand out from other shows for its attempt to do something different, special. It may have a “wow” factor, and be a show that people talk about afterwards for good reasons. “If you see only one show this Fringe, see this one”. It may have taken its field forward, challenged boundaries, created “disruption” in thinking and emotional response. The reviewer, with evidence, justifies why this really is a not to be missed show. The show has taken risks and they have mostly if not completely paid off. The show might also be an “exemplar”, a fine example in its genre. In the balance of the review, the reviewer wants the reader to know they believe the work to be unmissable.
An OUTSTANDING SHOW is the top of the heap. It has broken new ground and stands out in its field for its excellence. It Fringe Festivals this type of work stands alongside the best of work from the National Theatre. It excels in all areas – from concept and design, production values, direction, performance, dramaturgy, writing etc. It is peerless and yet still has potential areas where it may improve. It is the best in class, and the reviewer will provide evidence supporting and describing its rare quialities. We give out very few Outstanding ratings. This work is beyond excellent, original and ground-breaking. It isn’t given outstanding because of the subjective impact it has on the reviewer. Objective evidence is provided to justify why the show it outstanding.
Like a Recommended show rating, a VERY GOOD SHOW is of a very good standrard, an ‘B’ grade. The reviewer justifies, with evidence why the show is a VERY GOOD rating, why it is strong and what could be improved in order to lift it to excellent. The reviewer presents a review that is less about recommendation and more about quality. The reviewer isn’t focusing on a wish to recommend the work, but leans more towards a review of the work, the observation and evidence. The review is a description and celebration of very good work.
An EXCELLENT SHOW rating is on the same level as a Highly Recommendeded show, The reviewer, with plenty of evidence describes and justifies work of an “A” grade standard and chooses to celebrate that excellence. An excellent show is well worth seeing and the review contains a focus on why that show is excellent in all elements of its production – the conception, design, performance, writing, devising etc. A reviewer giving an excellent rating will spend less time trying to persuade you to see the show, and more time justifiyng why it is excellent work and leaving you, the audience member to decide.
A HIDDEN GEM is a show at the higher end of the quality spectrum that the reviewer believes deserves a larger audience than it got on the day they reviewed it. It may be the show is in a lesser known venue, a show lost in the noise of publicity. The reviewer decides to alert the potential audience to a show that deserves to be seen by more people. it is literally a hidden gem – work of value and quality that needs greater exposure and appreciation.
A DARING WORK rating allows the reviewer to focus upon the risk-taking nature of the show. A show may not be of the highest quality but be well worth seeing and rewarding for its courage and “daring to be dangerous”. This rating underlines that daring nature. Much work in the world of fringe play things safe. This rating points an enthusiatic finger at bold fringe.
An EXCITING WORK rating allows the reviewer to highlight the energy of a show which can arise from the risk taken but also the innovative nature of the work. It can also celebrate the mood of the show, where the show left the audience of their feet, terrified or uplifted, celebrating or crying, screaming with delight, or whooping with joy. Sharp intakes of breath, amazement, a sense of something sacred and unique. The reviewer provides evidence about how and why this is work creates excitement for the audience.
A GROUNDBREAKING WORK rating allows work to be highlighted that may not have reached an Outstanding level yet may still have broken new ground in its field. Work of any level of quality can still be unique and original. Ity may offer an experiment in something that has never been tried before. With this rating, and with observation and evidence, the reviewer points to work that is well worth seeing because it has broken rules, made new rules, explored new territory, and broken new ground, even if it hasn’t fully succeeded in that endeavour.
Specific Ratings for Youth Theatre
FringeReview reviewers see a lot of youth theatre at the Fringe. We have noticed that youth theatre gets reviewed very inconsistently at the Fringe with some publications giving low ratings and setting youth theatre companies against professional companies. Others rate them without highlighting the unique nature of youth theatre. We have developed three ratings where we draw attention to the fact it is youth theatre we are reviewing. The three ratings of RECOMMENDED, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and OUTSTANDING YOUTH THEATRE follow similar standards to those mentioned in our ratings above. But we review Youth Theatre within its own valuable field. And be in no doubt, much of this work is well worth seeing in its own right.