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My job explained: Theatre critic

My job explained: Theatre criticIn the world of theatre, a play’s success can rest as much on what the critics write as what the actors perform. Read on for Andrzej Lukowski’s advice for how to get a five star career as a theatre critic.

Can you tell us a bit about your job?

I work for the theatre section of Time Out London, a listings and lifestyle magazine. I do a lot of different things, including laying out pages and maintaining the theatre section of Time Out London's website, but it's usually easier to say that I'm a theatre critic.

What's your typical working day like?

I work 10am to 6pm in Time Out's office doing various officey type things; several nights a week I also go out to the theatre to review new plays.

What attracted you to theatre criticism?

It all seems like a fairly logical extension of an interest in the arts and a love of writing.

What's the best thing about your job?

Going to the theatre for free!

What's the most difficult thing about your job?

It can be very daunting reviewing a 'big name' production and knowing that your review is going to be compared to those of much more experienced critics like The Guardian's Michael Billington - who has been in the job for 40 years!

What qualifications do you have?

I'm educated to MA level in English Literature, which has undoubtedly helped, but I don't have any vocational qualifications.

What other skills do you need?

Write well, read a lot, take a genuine interest in the theatre, be able to hit deadlines and stick to wordcounts.

Was it hard to get your first job?

Not really, because I'd practically worked fulltime at my student newspaper, so I had a lot of experience and had already been published in several magazines and newspapers before I even came to apply for my first job. That said, my first job was working as an arts writer regionally - in the last several years those sorts of jobs have vanished, unfortunately. But that's the print media - there are a lot more opportunities digitally these days.

What advice would you have for people who want to follow in your footsteps?

Be certain it's something you're genuinely interested in; be prepared to do favours and some working for free, as it's the people you meet at the very beginning of your career who'll probably help you get that first big break. If you go to university, join your student newspaper straight away – and if it's crap be the one to change it! If it's theatre you're interested in, then do keep a blog, because if it's well-written it will probably end up getting noticed. Don't be discouraged: there's no one obvious way into professional arts journalism, but there are a million weird back routes.

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