In our latest review, Youth Theatre Ireland’s own National Youth Theatre production comes under the watchful eye of the Young Critics gaze.
Aftertaste by Ciara Elizabeth Smyth is a thought-provoking, original piece that takes a well-timed look at a dystopian near future without any sugar-coating.
Aftertaste is the culmination of 22 young people aged 16-20 from Youth Theatres across the country working together to celebrate the National Youth Theatre, an event organized by Youth Theatre Ireland and supported by the Abbey Theatre. This production is especially made for YouTube and was intended to be watched as a pre-record rather than as a live stream or in a theatre. It is directed by National Youth Theatre Director Veronica Coburn.
The play is set in an Ireland where the National Alliance Party have rose to power led by President Sanbrooke Martin (Samuel Ferrie) on the one-year anniversary of the passing of the Health and Wellness Act, banning foods with a high sugar or fat content. As a result of this, many are left starving and Junk Advocates have arisen, people eating illegal foods on their social media accounts and condemning the government. Several of these Advocates have been going missing, including 21-year-old Lila Birch (Daisy Hartigan) who has been missing for 6 days. Lila’s sister, Eadie Birch (Ella O’Callaghan) is getting no answers from the authorities. Meanwhile, there is internal strife within the National Alliance Party; Vice-President Jana Kaminski (Julia Szarota) is vying for President Martin’s position and journalist Oisín Ó Hanluain (Odhran Exton) is seeking to undermine the President’s policies.
These various political operatives, movie stars and the staff of The Royal Marine Restaurant eventually collide in a moment of frenzy at an ill- fated anniversary dinner honouring President Martin.
The excellent ensemble is completed by Caoimhe O’Farrell, Abbi Breen, Sadhbh McDonough, Tristan Spellman Molphy, Matthew Eglinton, Abhainn Harrington, Max Mufwasoni, Cara Mooney, Adam Henry, Aileen Broidy and Seán Loughrey.
The actors had to overcome the obstacle of a pre-recorded performance and convey a realistic portrayal of an authoritarian regime. They were able to do this whilst maintaining a certain amount of levity. We were given a detailed overview of this darker life from multiple societal perspectives, political leaders and glamorous celebrities to the everyday people who are affected by their actions. Overall, the actors more than deliver on their attempts to engage, entertain and make us think.
Sets were not heavily integral to this production and most often simple plain colour backgrounds were used with some exceptions. Basic props such as chairs, tables or podiums were used to set the scene. The politicians’ costumes are bright pinky-purple pastel colours while in comparison the outfits of the ordinary people are drab, dreary shades of brown. We also see the uniforms of The Royal Marine, crisp, professional attire. The work of lighting designer Suzzi Cummins is bright and powerful, stimulating the viewer and evoking emotional reactions. Sound designer Sinead Diskin and visual designer Cherie White work in tandem to provide an intense, rhythmic audio coupled with striking visuals which works together to pump up the audience and bring across the broader feelings of the piece. I think these various components combine to form a strong, successful use of design.
In closing, Aftertaste is a unique play that peers into the darker sides of wellbeing and healthy eating. This is a show that cannot be missed.
Aftertaste was broadcast on the Abbey Theatre’s YouTube Channel from Aug 8th- 15th 2021. Produced by Youth Theatre Ireland.
Through the project, OtM is supporting some of Canadian theatre’s pivotal playwriting voices: Elena Eli Belyea, Karen Hines, David Yee and Marcus Youssef.
Thank You for Your Labour by Marcus Youssef A group of white students is organizing an online music show to show solidarity with their racialized peers. For tonight’s meeting, they’ve invited the faculty’s only brown student to join them. Good intentions meet unspoken desires in this Zoom comedy about whiteness, isolation, and how hard it can be to do the right thing.
Directed by Mitchell Cushman Featuring: Caitlin Jasulaitis, Alannah Pedde, Elena Reyes, Brennan Roberts.
For our latest reviews, the Young Critics were able to watch recordings of two of the four productions from The Stream You Step In.
This co-production from The University of Windsor and Outside the March is an anthology of original plays commissioned specifically for the School of Dramatic Arts’ graduating BFA students occurring entirely over Zoom. Through the project, OtM is supporting some of Canadian theatre’s pivotal playwriting voices: Elena Eli Belyea, Karen Hines, David Yee and Marcus Youssef.
The shows under review are Thank You for Your Labour by Marcus Youssef and Karen Hines’ The River of Forgetfulness.
Thank You For Your Labour; A Stunningly Relevant Online Theatre Piece By Éabha Phelan
Thank You for Your Labour, written by Marcus Youseff, is a thought-provoking and bluntly realistic piece about the repercussions of forced allyship and performative activism.
In creating Thank You for Your Labour, Toronto-based theatre company, Outside The March, in collaboration with the University of Windsor, have created a relatable and almost immersive zoom-play experience that will have the audience rethinking their approach to modern politics. The play shows three white students, Meghan (Caitlin Jasulaitis), Emily (Alannah Pedde), and Steven (Brennan Roberts), discussing what they plan to do for their University’s concert in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. In an effort to promote diversity they invite their class’s only brown student, Alicia (Elena Reyes), to work with them. However, between high egos, schoolgirl crushes and the battle for political correctness, things quickly begin to go downhill.
In this play, Meghan desperately attempts to be politically correct and almost preaches to her friends about all the things they’re doing wrong. However, in her attempts to be the best ally she can be, she ends up seeming to only see Alicia for her race instead of as an actual person. The play being over Zoom creates an environment where you feel as though you too are in the call and are involved in the awkward tension that is created. This provides an insightful look, in a blunt but impactful way, into how white people can often end up speaking over people of colour and trying to be ‘white saviours’, an issue that is particularly relevant with the largely social media based Black Lives Matter Movement.
While the play’s message is about race, the only character who is overly focused on that is Meghan and all the others have their own, completely unrelated motivations. Emily and Alicia are only there because they’re crushing on each other and Steven just wants to play his song. All the characters, including Meghan, are beautifully developed with complex backgrounds and morals and are not what they appear to be at face value.
Although the ending was rather flimsy, with the song feeling random and forced and there seemingly being no consequences for Meghan’s mistreatment of the rest of the group, I feel that it didn’t take away from the main focus and message of the piece.
Many theatre companies felt as though their passion was being ripped away from them when Covid-19 began to spread like wildfire and the world went into lockdown. In a desperate attempt to salvage our craft we began grasping at the brand-new concept of ‘zoom-plays’, with some creating touching art in ways we had never experienced before and others crumbling disastrously before our eyes. Thank You for Your Labour from director Mitchell Cushman, is undeniably one of the successes of the pandemic.
The River of Forgetfulness or Get me the Fuck out of this Zoom Play – Reviewed By Sarah Carolan
If you are an actor not being able to perform, or you hate logging on to Zoom meetings, then this meandering storyline is for you.
The show starts off with three flatmates; Sammy, who was meant to play Jo from Llittle Women (Sam Cranston), Katelyn, who was meant to play Satan in Paradise Lost (Katlyn Doyle) and Alison, who was meant to play Bill Slank in Peter and the Star Catcher(Alison Adams). They are on separate devises on a zoom call. They start to quote their plays and put on costumes, becoming their characters and talk about how in an alternate universe, without Covid, they’d be on stage. They wait for their friend Caleb (Caleb Pauzé) to join outside their house so he can use their wifi. We learn that Caleb was meant to play Adam in Paradise Lost. When he joins he starts to quote the others’ lines and asks to be let onto the house. The girls realise something is wrong with him as he won’t talk as himself and he hints that he is not human and that the same will happen to them. Taking a twist, Alison reveals that she had been writing a play, explaining the event that follow. The characters face a mix between reality and fiction and not being able to figure out which is which.
As I watched the characters try to puzzle their way out, I couldn’t help but empathise with their confusion, comparing it to the uncertainty during the pandemic.
Even though the play was relatively short, it seemed dragged out. I think this was because of the somewhat confusing story line. Even afterwards I found myself trying to puzzle out what happened. That being said, the way the play was put together was impeccable, all of the elements worked well together to make a very visually interesting piece.
Music played a big role, with an upbeat suspenseful drum playing when the story reached a dramatic point. I think that this was helpful to link the pieces together.
Another interesting technique was the use of multiple devises and a blend of live and recorded scenes. All of the characters had their own computers that followed the action from many different angles. At one point the three roommates interact with characters that looked suspiciously like the three girls. I was completely in awe by how they accomplished this. By using all of the functions on Zoom they were able to apply a video background so they could make it look like they were interacting with themselves.
Though this play had twists and turns at every corner, it’s an amazing example of how Zoom plays shouldn’t be written off, instead should be admired as an alternative art form.
Outside the March- University of Windsor- directed by Griffin McInnes- written by Karen Hines for university students that weren’t able to perform on stage because of the pandemic.
Sarah Carolan 22/05/2021
Thank You For Your Labour – Reviewed by Anna Lynch
Marcus Youssef’s Zoom performance Thank You For Your Labour presents cultural wake up calls to those with idealistic ideas of allyship and solidarity – and should be thanked for its raising awareness of the white saviour complex.
In partnership with the University of Windsor, Outside the March’s Thank You For Your Labour is a refreshing production. It follows the story of four college students as they navigate the perilous subject of race and being allies to people of colour. The beginnings of a new crush and commanding, obstinate friendships also play thematic roles in the play. The online production opens up with two friends, Megan and Emily, as they communicate via the platform of Zoom to prepare for a concert they are hosting in support of Black Lives Matter. As the call proceeds, we are introduced to Tyler who is unintentionally ignorant and clueless. We also meet Alicia, the only person of colour on the call, who is subject to the smothering attempts of allyship made by Megan.
Caitlin Jasulaitis (Megan), characterizes the hypocritical, excessive white saviour of the 21st century. Capturing the spirit of a domineering, dismissive person making many failed attempts of putting everyone at ease, Jasulaitis adds the element of excruciating uncomfortableness, making the performance so memorable. Alannah Pedde portrays the pacifying character of Emily effectively and Brennan Roberts (Tyler) represents the insensitivity of others. Elena Reves embodies the role of Alicia in an undeniably remarkable performance. She plays the difficult role of being the only person of colour in an overwhelmingly white situation, and also accurately highlights the performative activism of the others. This subsequently compels the viewers to debate their own internal views and actions on the matter.
Directed by Mitchell Cushman, the play affords viewers a new and exciting way to view theatre. The production managed to utilise all the features of Zoom, even allowing the audience to choose which part of the story they would like to follow, by enabling them to choose their own breakout room, which was an effective and unconventional way to tell a story. It gave us insight into a tense and hugely awkward zoom call, which felt incredibly realistic, even down to the inside jokes referred to by the characters. The use of music at the end, where all characters eventually performed a piece was a united and unified way to finish the play.
Arguably, the script was at times cringey, perhaps trying too hard to resonate with a younger audience. However, the questions posed – what does it mean to be a good ally? How aware are we of white privilege and its impacts? – cancelled this out by highlighting inadvertent racism and asks us to delve deeper into the misguided happenings of everyday life.
Thank You For Your Labour is an advocative performance, that urges viewers to see themselves in the characters, and is one to watch the next time you’re in the mood for a reality check.
From April 28th – May 1st 2020 the Abbey Theatre broadcast fifty short monologues as an immediate response to COVID-19 and the first lockdown in Ireland.
The brief was simple, What should Ireland write on a postcard to itself?
A whole year later, our newest group of Young Critics had the unique opportunity to revisit one of the pieces and watch it in isolation. Thanks to the generosity of the creators, the group had a private viewing of The Rock, written by Phillip McMahon and performed by Caoilfhionn Dunne.
We have a trio of short reviews from Anna Lynch,Evie Howard and Sarah Carolan for you to enjoy.
First up, Anna Lynch shares this review
The Rock by Phillip McMahon, part of the Dear Ireland project by the Abbey Theatre. Rating: ★★★★
The Rock poses to Ireland some uncomfortable questions, mainly how far have we as a society really come in terms of LGBTQ+ acceptance?
Written by Phillip McMahon and part of Abbey Theatre’s Dear Ireland project, The Rock is presented to us in the form of a video diary filmed by the only character. It’s recorded during a Covid-19 lockdown as a way of documenting the run-up to her wedding and to have as a keepsake for her future, but presently non-existent kids. We are privy to the troubles and turmoil the relationship between the character and her partner Carol have endured, see how internalised homophobia is still present in modern day Ireland and learn how important communication and co-operation are in relationships.
Caoilfhionn Dunne portrays the role of the angsty other half perfectly, capturing not only the essence of the lockdown madness, but also portraying the pressure of being a lesbian in Ireland. Taking into consideration the fact that the entire monologue is self-recorded and has no director, one has to applaud how smoothly the video runs.
The entire performance is intimate and personal, creating the illusion that the viewers are part of their lives. The script was outstanding, full of the Irish humour we all know and love. In particular, McMahon’s consistent references to rocks was extraordinarily clever when describing the feelings and thoughts of the character. It makes us think about how Irish views on the LGBTQ+ community and how indiscreet homophobia, even from loved ones, can have a profound impact on lives.
At times the monologue was perhaps spoken too fast, making it difficult to understand. However, overall, the short performance was excellent. This is definitely one to watch if you’re in the mood for some food for thought.
In this witty and realistic account of lockdown life in Ireland, Phillip McMahon tells an engaging and thought provoking story of a Dublin woman struggling with tradition, family, and identity.
The Rock was written as part of the Dear Ireland project, an initiative run by the Abbey Theatre in order to keep theatre alive during a nationwide lockdown. The idea is simple; 50 pieces written by 50 playwrights which were then self-taped by 50 actors. All the pieces were written with one theme in mind; ‘what should Ireland write on a postcard to itself?’
This theme is one that Phillip McMahon pulls off particularly successfully, raising a number of talking points about Irish society. In The Rock, we watch as the main character (played by Caoilfhionn Dunne) speaks directly into the camera in a way that feels very vulnerable and intimate. The piece is formatted as a video diary and we learn that she has proposed to her girlfriend and since revoked her proposal, telling a story of self-doubt and relationship troubles relatable to many. She also tells of problems with family, as she struggles to rebuild bridges with her homophobic mother. McMahon manages to pack a lot of information into the short few minutes of this piece of theatre while still keeping the dialogue natural, and Dunne makes a great performance, keeping consistent energy throughout.
As for negatives, of which there are few, the dialogue can be difficult to understand at times, especially for those unfamiliar with the Dublin accent, and the background is bland and can be distracting, but these issues are minor, and given The Rock was self-taped under unique circumstances, it can be forgiven. Overall, well worth the watch and I would recommend seeking it out should the opportunity to view it arise again.
The Rock- online performance for Dear Ireland- Abby theatre- written by Phillip McMahon- performed by Caoilfhionn Dunne
The rock is an insight into the stone cold society that we live in, with deep rooted beliefs that affect us more than we may think. A worthwhile watch that you, for sure, won’t take for granted.
The main character (played by Caoilfhionn Dunne) breaks the fourth wall, talking directly to the camera about her experience of lockdown through the format of a video diary. She tells us about the societal pressure she feels in everyday life and gives us an insight to how she makes decisions that affect her. She proposed to her girlfriend, but questioned what marriage meant to her. She tells us about the strain on the relationship with her mother, who has never fully accepted her sexuality.
Overall it was an extremely well put together piece. The subtlety of Caoilfionn’s performance was impeccable, to the point where it felt natural, as if she was talking to us through the diary. I also think the online medium was used to its fullest potential. Being able to adapt a story to the circumstances we find ourselves in, and not feel out of place, is a huge skill.
The design was simple and didn’t distract from the piece, but I wonder if a more cluttered backdrop could have reflected on the obstacles the characters have overcome.
With that said, it carries an extremely important message, making you examine the importance of “social norms” in today’s society.
This is our second year of running a fully online programme and offers the Young Critics an opportunity to connect, see some amazing digital theatre, voice their opinions and makes new friends along the way.
In the latest review from our Young Critics, we venture again online and review our peers at Giant Wolf Youth Theatre. Working in tandem, our pair of critics log onto Discord for a seasonal online offering.
The horrific murder of a normal family, a decaying body at the bottom of a lake, the disappearance of a brother that cannot be solved, this radio play has it all.
Although Discord is a website primarily used for online gaming, Giant Wolf Youth Theatre in Tallaght, Dublin have given the platform their own unique stamp by using it to perform ‘Hallowe’en Horror Show’ on the eve of the spookiest day of the year at 7pm. This live entertainment was a free, non-ticketed event and contains six pieces created a few weeks before airing by its members. However, we will just be giving a slight taster into this great act to give our readers a sense of the show. The audience are able to post their live reactions in a separate text channel as the performance occurs and actors are also able to communicate with the listeners, answering questions while not disturbing the show.
Written and performed by Young Critics’ own Heather Jones, the introductory piece The Waiting Game is set in a bedroom. Usually it’s a place that suggests comfort and security. Any feeling of that is instantly taken from participants who tune in with how surreal this performance is.
It centralises on the death of the character’s family from a creature described as having “natural sickly white skin” and “tainted crimson all over its arms, legs and neck”. The murder is witnessed by the only character in the show and we’re given great insight into the emotions she feels, “My whole body was numb sitting in the silence”. She hides in her bedroom while recounting the story and it ends on a cliff-hanger, leaving the audience to their imaginations. Jones’ acting skills came across the medium phenomenally and caused everyone witnessing this masterpiece heart’s to race, visualising the gruesome scene.
The second piece is named Picturesque and is made by James Chatham, Trudy Nolan, and Kai Foley, performed by the writers as well as Ella Kinsella.
We are transported back fifteen years where we meet Quinn Smith. The show is based around the interviewing of Quinn on the 7th of September, 2010 at 3pm, and gradually we learn about the events which unfolded and lead to his rehabilitation. We are presented with two different versions of the event and are left conflicted on who to believe.
At the beginning of the story, Quinn conveys himself as a loving husband and father to young Jack and Alice, describing the details of that night with loving narration. But with the twist ending, we’re left bewildered, wondering if this is all an act and if he really is the person he acts out to be. After multiple forms of evidence line up with Quinn’s recounting are presented from the interviewers attempting to convict him, what comes next is something nobody could predict. A bone chilling sinister laugh, challenging Joaquin Phoenix’s ‘Joker’ is heard echoing through the device’s speakers and leaves you holding your breath in anticipation. This piece is confusing at the beginning and listeners are unsure where the story is heading, but ends up being very well thought out and keeps the audience engaged with its constant plot twists.
The final act is titled Thicker than Water and is created from the mind of Charley Ashe, also performed by Ashe as well as Trudy Nolan and James Chatham.
Our last journey tells the comedic but equally frightening tale of three characters Kevin, Katie and Ciara. These seventeen year olds are subjected to an interview by Kevin for his school project that results in both girls retelling the perplexing events that happened to them both in a Wicklow forest. This show is reminiscent to the Irish film The Hole In The Ground directed by Lee Cronin, but takes that plot to a new level with the sheer adrenaline experienced when hearing the scary situations these girls end up in. It has a great sense of place with strong Irish accents and its careful placements of sound effects help the overall feeling of an outdoor setting.
Hallowe’en Horror Show by Giant Wolf Youth Theatre is an extremely immersive experience and a surreal insight into the world of horror and all things terrifying. The wonderful narrator Cal has such a relaxing and pleasant voice. It’s extremely soothing between each piece, which just makes it all the more disturbing when we’re thrown back into these six worlds of mayhem. For only having a short and limited time to prepare, everyone involved in this production worked very well to produce a wonderful event, getting their audience in the mood to fully celebrate Halloween the next day.
Show reviewed on Oct 30th, and review submitted Nov 8th
Here Aoife Murphy gives us her take on To Be A Machine (Version 1.0)
Laughing in the face of level 3 restrictions, Dublin Theatre Festival held their head up high as they re-imagined what we know as theatre and delivered a superb socially distanced performance.
Developed and supported by the Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin, ‘To Be a Machine (Version 1.0)’ by Dead Centre and Mark O’Connell, is adapted from the Wellcome Prize-winning book by Mark and explores the idea of theatre without the barrier of a body. Staring critically acclaimed actor Jack Gleeson, playing himself, he actively attempts to not be a machine while the audience watches the live performance from Project Arts Centre in the comfort of their beds.
What is a forty five minute performance on the exploration of technological possibility and the limits of live performance, feels like a mere second. I found myself craving for more bewilderment when it ended. With its plot line hard to follow, I’m still confused as to what I witnessed exactly. But I think that’s what makes this piece that bit even more interesting. It doesn’t have one solid interpretation, so audiences can take what they want from it.
The slightly eerie atmosphere and wonderful cinematography makes gaining a sense of a personal connection to Jack seamlessly easy as he looks straight into the camera, into us, and rarely breaks eye contact. His soft voice is calming and Jack deals with some minor technical issues very professionally.
The only thing that took me out of the immersive experience is seeing my fellow Young Critic’s faces uploaded on a tablet screen, placed where we would have been sitting if we were physically at the theatre. It’s strange to witness; however it gave me some joy recognising people I know in the sea of digital profiles.
This trippy theatre performance will mess with your mind, challenging what you think you know with the exploration of the philosophical concept of what is existence. In a world constantly looking for answers to big questions, I feel that if this play were to give a solid response, it would suggest that there’s always an absolute to the trivial parts of life.
A 5/5 star performance rating.
Reviewed by Aoife Murphy Oct 3rd 2020.
You can listen to an audio version of this review here:
Youth Theatre Ireland returned to Dublin Theatre Festival for the 17th iteration of Young Critics.
This year has been like no other, with a Young Critics programme to match. Between June and October, eighteen young people from across Ireland honed their critical skills from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
They have been guided on their journey of critical discovery by our expert facilitators: Alan King in Dublin and theatre critic Dr. Karen Fricker in Toronto.
Over the course of the Dublin Theatre Festival, the Young Critics engaged with several programmed events and presented their critical responses at this special online panel.
Young Criticshave been working with digital tools for criticism for the last number of years and the 2020 panel was an opportunity to showcase this like never before.
This is an edited version of the Young Critics Panel discussion that took place on Sunday, Oct 11th at 4pm.