Leaving an Imprint


Fabulous Beast / Liam Ó Maonlaí / Michael Keegan-Dolan

Cork Opera House

Reviewed 22 June 2012 by Sarah Brett, Niamh McCormack, Sarah McGooghan, Megan Moroney, and Aaron Mullaney

Rian as gaeilge translates as ‘imprint’. Inspired by Sean O’Riada (one of the most influential icons in the mid-20th century revival of Irish traditional music), Liam Ó Maonlaí ‘s music inspires powerful and emotional movement from both the cast of contemporary dancers, and, at the show’s end, the audience. The experience is unique and awakens the primal imprint of rhythm and joy within us. Along with O’Maonlai, Michael Keegan-Dolan, artistic director of Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre, has created a beautiful, passionate and moving ensemble of music and dance.

The technical abilities of both the dancers and musicians are evident throughout the performance. The organic beat of the dancers’ bare feet on the floor reinforced that of the bodhrán, combining to create an electric atmosphere. Although at times the dancers are not directly in sync with each other, the contemporary movement offers a context for this. Rian is a traditional Irish music lover’s paradise but the tribal beats and foreign and modern influences mean it is not exclusively so.

The stage layout was very striking as eerie shadows cast upon the light green backdrop helped create a feel of nature throughout the show – like how fire casts shadows upon the earth around it. Also the traditional semi-circular layout of the musicians and dancers worked well, as the audience felt as though they were taking part in a real Irish session.

There were certain aspects of the performance, however, that felt somewhat obvious and perhaps stereotypical. The nature of the stage layout made it difficult to see the whole performance at times; and there were some musical faux pas in terms of harmony. The ending of the performance was somewhat misleading as after the cast took their bow the show continued on, which was fortunate as the audience was then asked to come up on stage and dance with the cast. As minor as these flaws were, they were trifling compared to the overall performance of this outstanding show.

Rian gives a beautiful impression of the Irish culture and spirit. The performance offers an open and inclusive look into the Irish community. The dancers’ vivacious performance created an excitement in the audience and throughout the performance you had to suppress the urge to jump on stage and join the dancers. At the end, we finally were given this chance! Overall, this performance left an imprint on its audience and we highly recommend you to go and see it.


A Matter of Record


Dylan Tighe
Half Moon Theatre
Reviewed 23 June 2012

by Sadhbh Keating,Amaka Attoh,Kim Molloy,Eimear Deery

Record by Dylan Tighe is an extremely difficult performance to critique as it is an autobiographical, emotional play about Tighe’s struggle with bipolar disorder. Also, we must note that we saw only the second preview and the production may change, and grow.

The setting is, for the most part, drab. The pre-set is very intimate; it feels like Tighe’s personal space. Guitars, a drum set, a large writing desk and a leather chair all dressed in dark colours reflect the melancholic mood of the show.

Tighe uses music from his debut album Record, his own medical records, and multimedia to portray the concept of mental illness. Tighe takes on the role of himself which provides authenticity and real raw human emotion. This also highlights the isolating and internalised nature of this disease. Keeping with the intimate nature of the performance, the supporting cast of musicians and actors is very small. Aofie Duffin takes on the role of Tighe’s nurse and love interest but, unfortunately, her performance lacks credibility. A more positive point of Duffin’s performance is her singing voice. Her hauntingly beautiful voice captures the turmoil of emotions her acting didn’t. Daniel Reardon takes on the role of the austere doctor and gives a satisfactory performance.  Despite the small cast of supporting actors and their inability to effectively portray the story, powerful messages still come through, one being that medication may not always be effective to treat mental illness.

Elements such as Tighe’s own music also reinforced these messages and provided clarity to some of the more obscure images. Custom-made films about Tighe’s life and his ideas show his confusion and loneliness when in a depressed state, which gives the show a sense of reality. Tighe must be commended for this fearless production as he puts everything on the table.

Although the production deals with dark matters, humour and live music give it an uplift. We recommend it, although during parts of the show fantasy and reality collide, leading to confusion and ambiguity. This mirrors Tighe’s state of mind at the particular point in his life, and leaves the audience with much to contemplate.


Cork Midsummer Festival – From a Young Critic

I can honestly say that the weekend I spent with Young Critics at the
Cork Midsummer Festival was one the best of my young life so far. I was challenged by all four of the productions we attended to go outside my comfort zone physically and mentally. I was left thinking deeply about things such as mental health, what is means to be Irish, the materialistic values of today and lives that dwell behind closed doors.

My weekend began with a bus trip for me to ponder over what was ahead. I was excited and glad to be meeting my fellow young critics again. Together again for the first time in two months, we headed with Alan,Diane and Mirjana to our accommodation Victoria Lodge at UCC. Waiting for us there were welcome packages from the kind people of Cork Midsummer Festival, as well as complimentary food!


After being fed and watered, we trundled along to the Camden Palace Hotel, a quirky arts centre where we met up with Karen Fricker and took part in a workshop about the piece we were to see that night –Fabulous Beast’s Rian. This workshop was substantially more physical than previous ones; we explored the idea of abstract expression through movement. We discussed what Irish music meant to us all, our concepts of dance and watched an introductory film about Rian. We were truly pepped up at this point for a spectacular performance – and that it was.

Rian was one of the best performances I have ever witnessed. There was such a natural energy onstage, and the performers showed nothing but absolute joy in every single movement they made. Traditional Irish music and contemporary dance are not two things I have ever shown much interest in, nor did I ever think they could have meshed so well together! Liam Ó Maonlaí did Séan Ó Riada proud, amalgamating music of all cultures with traditional Irish. I was struck with a great sense of beauty at this magical performance, and the simplicity of human movement. To make a wonderful night even more so, the audience was invited onstage to share in the fabulous art of dance and we were joined by the director Michael Keegan-Dolan. It was a night that will stay in my memory for a long time.

Home we came to Victoria Lodge, still buzzing but in desperate need of sleep, some of us being up since as early as 06:00am. The next morning was an early one, and we trekked to Cork School of Music for the second workshop of the weekend to discuss our thoughts about Rian. We then turned our focus to the Parallel Cities project and to Dylan Tighe’s production of Record, and created some ideas as to what we were expecting.

Parallel Cities was a new experience for us all – Shopping Centre was an immersive performance, in which we took a set of headphones and a pocket radio and were instructed on how to act in a particular shopping centre in Cork (location top secret). It was great fun acting as an agent of the underground, but there was also a clear message in this piece: that consumerism and materialism has taken a hold of modern life, and that we are becoming slaves to our relationships with items rather than with people.

The other Parallel Cities piece we ‘saw’ was House, which gave a look into true life stories of various people living in Cork at the moment. I enjoyed the simplicity of this piece; we stood with headphones outside a house and observed the lives inside. The piece took me out of my own mind and reminded me of the importance of everyone’s story.

Between these two pieces we went to see a preview of Dylan Tighe’s Record. This play really struck a chord with me, if you will excuse the pun. The truth of Tighe’s life is literally laid bare for the audience to see in this piece, as he delves into his struggle with mental illness and the Irish health system. There was a complete connection made between man and audience through his heartfelt music and lyrics. Record made me think a lot about the complexity (and often the torture) of life, and this was succeeded through satirical humour as well as tragedy. Despite the pain and suffering, hope was the last note sounded in the play. The necessity of the ability to love dominates the message board of Record’ and I know will never listen to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Need Your Love So Bad’ without thinking of Dylan Tighe.

The morning of the 24th was another early one in Cork School of Music again for our final workshop. We split off into smaller groups and were given the challenge of composing a review of one of the four pieces in just 40 minutes. It was such a thrill getting our reviews in on our first real deadline, and we were sixteen happy young critics that afternoon! We travelled to the bus and train stations and said our goodbyes, promising to keep in contact and keep critiquing.

As great as I thought the first weekend in Dublin was, Cork was twice that. It is really such a beautiful city, and the artistic opportunities available are enough to tempt me to move there! I loved the raw honesty I found in every one of the productions we went to see, and I cannot thank NAYD and Cork Midsummer Festival for giving me this invaluable experience. I feel myself coming away from Young Critics enriched with different tastes of theatre, and with an unending appetite for more.

Madi O’ Carroll, County Wexford Youth Theatre

Young Critics on tour to Cork!

Cork is one of Ireland’s nicest cities, throw a bunch of young teenage critics into it and it becomes a beautiful city! Meeting our fellow critics again at Heuston station was so exciting for most of us getting the train from Dublin. The catching up and laughing was great on the way down on the train. As we pulled into Kent station we were all definitely on a high. We met with Alan from NAYD and everyone else then at the bus station. We were all together again!

We went straight to our accommodation, Victoria Lodge, and got our rooms, we each had our own bathroom – get in!  The rooms were lovely, a fully stocked kitchen and some basic food supplied by Cork Midsummer Festival and NAYD. We all had a spot of lunch and went through a few house rules. Secret letters were given out to us all with unique tasks on them; we read them and then set off into the city of Cork.

As soon as we left the Lodge, our task began. My task was to ‘tweet’ about the smells of Cork city. We had to keep our instructions secret from each other. We walked for 50 minutes to the Camden Palace Hotel, an arts centre on the quays of the Lee, in the baking sun. When we arrived we found ourselves in a dance studio, a very appropriate setting for the production we were about to see. Alan and Karen set up music and we all had to dance and move to the beat and rhythm of the music.

We found out that we were about to see the show Rian in the Cork Opera House, so we read a bit about the history and background information on the show.

As soon as we were happy, we set off over the bridge to the Opera House. I think I speak for everyone when I say the show was spectacular! It was full of contemporary dancing and traditional Irish music, as well as a mix from other places including   Africa. The ‘cast’ so to speak, were a mix of different nationalities, and a running theme throughout the show was how humans can all bond together with music and dance. A really special surprise in the show was the audience participation at the end – we were all invited up on stage to join in dancing with the others. It was so fun! A really cool way to end the show.

We caught the late bus home and all crawled into our rooms. Most of us stayed up and chatted some more and others began to drift off into bed. Rise and shine at 8am the next day was hard for most of us. A good big breakfast was needed for the really long day ahead!

We started the day with a nice brisk 50 minute walk to the Cork School of Music, where Karen and Alan were waiting with another workshop on how we felt about last night’s performance. We had a quick look at Parallel Cities: Shopping Centre, the production we were about to see, before setting off to the ‘secret location’ for the bus they had arranged. We had a bit of free time before we were due at the location so we wandered off to see some sights of the city and to continue our tasks.

We gathered at the location which turned out to be the bus station and were brought to a shopping centre somewhere in Cork. We were given a set of ear phones and a pocket radio, which they tuned for us. As we entered the centre a voice started to play in the earphones giving us a set of instructions, such as “imitate and follow a stranger” and “Dance as if no one is watching.” It went on for a good 50 minutes. I felt like a secret agent, it was brilliant!  It was a really different approach to theatre performance.

We travelled back to the station and went to dinner in Luigi Malone’s, a very fancy restaurant! After dinner we went back to the Opera House and went to see a preview showing of Record by Dylan Tighe. It was sensational. The performance was full of raw emotion and honesty. Songs from a specially written album by Dylan himself were also included. I really enjoyed the show and most of the others did too.

After Record we went straight across the river to Patricks Hill to see Parallel Cities: House. We were given headphones yet again and radios too. Two houses that stood opposite each other were used in this. People were seen in the windows and as a voice started up in the headphones a room in the house lit up and we could see the words acted out in the window. People of different nationalities were there sharing their stories. There were people from Ireland, Pakistan, Hungary, Poland and Spain. The stories were really interesting and I enjoyed the experience.

We returned to our accommodation for our last night in Cork together! Up again at 8am on Sunday to pack our bags and clean our apartments. We then set off to the Cork School of Music for the last time. We did another workshop sharing our thoughts on what we saw and took part in the previous day. We were really on a high after such a good day. We wrote reviews on our favourite performance over the weekend in groups and sent them onto Alan.

We got together for a last group picture and then went our separate ways. Emotional goodbyes were said at the bus and train stations! The train back to Dublin was a quick and tired one – with most of us falling asleep at some point. I think I speak for everyone when I say that this weekend in Cork was a really great one, it will never be forgotten by any of us. It was a truly brilliant weekend. Thank you to the National Association For Youth Drama and Cork Midsummer Festival for everything and thank you to Alan King, Karen Fricker, Diane O’Connor and Mirjana Rendulic for all their help support, insight and for taking care of us so well!


By Sarah Brett, Clondalkin Youth Theatre.

June 22nd – 24th 2012

Welcome to the Desert of the Real

Parallel Cities:Shopping Centre: The First International of Shopping Malls

Linga (Hamburg/Berlin)Image

Undisclosed mall location, Cork

Reviewed on 23 June 2012 by Caroline Allen, Robert Galvin, Art Kellegher, Aoife Lanigan, and Madi O’Carroll

Parallel Cities:Shopping Centre: The First International of Shopping Malls was like drawing your head out of the Matrix and taking a real look at the world around you. In the past, the production company Ligna have put together a number of immersive performances. The audience listen through headphones and are directed by a pre-recorded set of instructions.

It would be a shame to live in Cork and not experience this show. Whether you consider yourself an extravert or an introvert, this treasure hunt (for a treasure you’re not supposed to want) will challenge you to step outside your comfort zone. It’s likely everyone will experience something different – from your first reaction to the shopping centre to your final impression as you walk out the shopping centre door.

From the word go, we’re invited to observe the shopping centre from the position of an outside agent, and see the world of commodities for what it really is. The instructions initially seemed to have no meaning, but as the performance progressed the anti-consumerist message became clearer, as we were invited to become seceret agents in an underground movement. As the shopping centre speaks, both metaphorically and literally, we finally become aware of the monontony of consumer culture.

The experience was somewhat bizarre, as it challenges our perception of everyday life, as well as asking what can be considered performance. It asks questions about the choices we make and are made for us.

The question that this piece leaves us with: is this really theatre? We found the line between reality and drama blurred, joining the audience and the performance as one. Without this division, it is somewhat unclear as to what we felt leaving the shopping centre.

A thought-provoking, captivating and sometimes uncomfortable production, this piece from the Parallel Cities project was quite unforgettable. An extraordinary vision of ordinary life was presented to us all, challenging us to reconsider modern life as we know it.

Parallel Cities is presented as part of Cork Midsummer Festival


In the Middle of Our Street

Parallel Cities: House

St. Patrick’s Hill, Cork

Reviewed on 23 July 2012 by Luke Casserly and Aoife Marie O’Donnell

Parallel Cities: House is a contemporary and dynamic piece of site-specific theatre. It entails a street-bound audience spectating a series of real life stories from outside the windows of two apartments on St. Patrick’s Hill in Cork city. House is one-eighth of the Ciudades Paralelas project, a series of theatre pieces that make audience member part of the performance. Parallel Cities has visited many cities worldwide including Warsaw, Buenos Aires and Berlin and invites audiences to view their cities from eight different perspectives.

Equipped with a set of earphones and a transmission device, we took our places on the lofty terrain of St. Patrick’s Hill and thus were drawn into the lives of a diverse group of both national and international residents.

This was far from the most riveting piece of theatre we have both ever experienced, but it certainly was an interesting and warm concept. Whilst we respect the artists’ idea of offering a real-life account of a group of people, it failed to produce much entertainment value. Poor sound quality was also a problem. However, we appreciated the innovative attempt to push the boundaries of theatre; we were transported from the conventional theatre experience of sitting in an auditorium, to an outdoor location, viewing the performance through the windows of the apartment, looking inwards. Parallel Cities: House had the potential to be engaging, had it supplied the audience with a more interesting and fruitful stories in terms of specific content.

To conclude, we found this piece rather bland. In a manner of speaking, it failed to produce a punch line. We both understand the stories of Parallel Cities: House as real and genuine but are left wondering: how interesting can a real life truly be? Not very, judging by the real-life accounts conveyed in this piece.

Parallel Cities: House is presented as part of CorkMidsummer Festival


The Young Critics Are Coming



We are Young Critics 2012- that is, sixteen teenagers involved in youth theatres from all corners of the country, from Donegal to Cork city itself. We are brought together for one purpose: to appreciate and critique theatre.
The young critics programme is now in its eighth year, and I am delighted to be a part of it. What’s more is that this year I am lucky enough to be invited to attend three weekends of exciting theatre-going and workshops, not just one.

The National Association for Youth Drama is not of the opinion that young people should be seen and not heard- quite the opposite. There is a strong sense of freedom of thought and of expression engrained in NAYD. The voices of young people are valued and respected. Although our first weekend together in Dublin was just a little over 48 hours, we all definitely connected with one another. There is nothing like sharing in joy, and there is no doubt that drama is a joy of each and every one of us!

I am thrilled to be attending Cork Midsummer Festival, and the line-up Alan King (NAYD’s youth theatre officer) has prepared for us looks superb. From Rian on Friday night, dazzling dance with music by Liam Ó Maonlaí, to a Saturday afternoon performance of the mysterious Parallel Cities, a site specific piece presenting different perspectives on a city and on life. This is followed by Dylan Tighe’s Record and yet another late night visit to Parallel Cities: House.

What I love about my experience so far in the Young Critics programme is that it contrasts with and contributes to my experience with youth theatre beautifully, a place where I am so used to being and creating the performance, not the audience. Dr. Karen Fricker enlightened me greatly on how to truly watch theatre, to absorb every single element of the production; sound, lighting, acting, direction, etc., to ask questions of the production and of myself; why did that actor just do that? Why did that scene appear so rushed to me? I learned to research a production before going to see it, and to take notes no matter how dark the theatre may be!

The weekend in Dublin broadened my mind to a world of critical thinking; something that I find lacking a bit in the Irish educational system and something that makes society grow and improve. I very much look forward to the Cork Midsummer Festival where I will no doubt be blown away by the talent we possess in this little island. I relish in once again meeting with my fellow theatre lovers and enter a world of magic, of emotion, of captivating performance- of art.

Keep an eye on the twittersphere where we will be giving our opinion over the weekend. #Corkmidsummer #youngcritics

Madi O’ Carroll, County Wexford Youth Theatre

About NAYD Young Critics

The Young Critics is a programme of the National Association for Youth Drama (NAYD)  in Ireland.

NAYD is the development organisation for youth theatre and youth drama in Ireland. NAYD supports youth drama in practice and policy, and supports the sustained development of youth theatres in Ireland.

NAYD advocates the inherent value and the unique relationship between young people and theatre as an artform, and is committed to extending and enhancing young people’s understanding of theatre and raising the artistic standards of youth theatre across the country.

The Young Critics Programme is part of NAYD’s commitment to developing youth theatre members’ awareness and appreciation of the aesthetic of theatre.

The Young Critics Programme brings youth theatre members together to:

  • attend workshops in the critique of professional theatre;
  • attend professional performances at leading Irish festivals;
  • give their own critiques of the performances at the Young Critics Panel.

Young Critics 2014

Photo Credit: Allen Kiely

NAYD Young Critics 2014 at Dublin Theatre Festival Oct 5th, Project Arts Centre

2014 saw several new strands to the Young Critics programme. As well as our two weekends attending theatre in Dublin,the Young Critics also progammed a theatre trip to their local venue. From here they recorded a video blog review and several were invited to write written reviews.

The reviews can be read here 

This was a really great dimension to the Young Critics progarmme and one that allowed even more young people have the Young Critics experience.

This year the Young Critics went to see:

Quietly by Owen McCafferty at the Peacock

An Ideal Husband at The Gate Theatre

Frequency 783 (Brokentalkers) at Project Arts Centre

The Seagull and Other Birds ( Pan Pan) at Project Arts Centre

Ganesh Versus The Third Reich (Back to Back Theatre) at O’Reilly Theatre

The self programmed shows during the summer included Heartbreak House at the Abbey, Fishamble’s Swing, Ballyturk, Lambo, [Title of Show] at New Theatre.

Young Critics 2013

There are two separate strands to Young Critics 2013.  The first strand are the Young Critics who meet for the two sessions over the year. This group met for the first time in March. On this weekend they were brought to see two productions. They were

I Malvolio , written  and performed by Tim Crouch at the Peacock Theatre

King Lear by William Shakespeare directed by Selina Cartmell at the Abbey Theatre.

This group will come together again in October to view and discuss work as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival at the Young Critics Panel



Young Critics 2013 arrive for King Lear at The Abbey Theatre

Young Critics 2013 arrive for King Lear at The Abbey Theatre


The second strand of the programme was The Young Critics International Encounter / Talking Shop

This strand involved a different group of young people aged 14-16 coming together to watch and discuss work as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival. This group was made up of 9 young people from across Ireland, 4 from BiondekBühne  Youth Theatre, Baden in Austria and 5 from Stamsund in the Lofoten Islands in Norway.


This group explored two different but complimentary models of working, that of the Young Critics alongside the Talking Shop Model.

International Young Critics

Young Critics 2012

Young Critics 2012

In 2012  we were delighted to announce an expanded Young Critics programme. In addition to two weekends in Dublin, participants would also attend  performances at the Cork Midsummer Festival.

The dates and locations are:

  • April 13-15, Dublin
  • June 22-24, Cork Midsummer Festival
  • October 5-7, Dublin Theatre Festival
NAYD Young Critics at Dublin Theatre Festival 2012

NAYD Young Critics at Dublin Theatre Festival 2012


Participants will attend at least eight performances while on the programme. They will also participate in workshops and discussions with international theatre critic Dr. Karen Fricker and Alan King, NAYD’s Youth Theatre Officer. The final weekend in Dublin will feature the Young Critics Panel, a public panel discussion, organised as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival.

It is an exciting opportunity for youth theatre members with an interest in theatre criticism. To quote a Young Critic from last year:

It has opened up a whole new world of different types of theatre, and different ways of looking at theatre.

The programme is open to members, aged 16 or over, from NAYD affiliated youth theatres. Participation is free of charge: the cost of travel, accommodation and food is covered.

The Young Critics Panel takes the form of a public discussion forum and has taken place in October for the last number of years, as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival.

In this blog the Young Critics will be sharing their views on not only the productions they have seen but also their experiences of the whole Young Critics programme

Alan King

Youth Theatre Office