‘We sure ain’t in Cork anymore, Toto’ – The Young Critics Come to the Dublin Theatre Festival

Jess Richter from Lightbulb Youth Theatre in Mallow, Co Cork shares her thoughts on the Young Critics programme and unveils the productions we will be going to see as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival 

“Excuse me, do you know where the GPO is, please?” I may as well have asked what planet I was on. “We sure ain’t in Cork anymore, Toto.” Ironically, the GPO is the place in which I and 15 of my fellow comrades met in March, to be introduced to a new planet; the World of Critiquing.

Introductions were made, roommates allotted, and it was straight down to business. We began with a workshop, to get energy and creativity flowing, and discussed what we had researched about the plays we were about to see. I, Malvolio, written and performed by award-winning playwright and actor Tim Crouch; and the Abbey Theatre’s King Lear- both Shakespearian, both beyond my everyday comfort zone.

I expected professionalism, I expected to be awed. What I did not expect, was to be blown from one extreme to the other: crying tears of laughter at I, Malvolio; and those of devastation for King Lear, played by Owen Roe.

Under the guidance of Alan King, NAYD’s youth theatre officer, and Dr. Karen Fricker; we began to learn to critique. We discussed what we liked, what we disliked, directors influence, standard of acting; we began asking new, deranged questions like; “What was the relevance of nuditiy in this piece?” We began to have the courage to voice our opinions.

What I found most interesting was reading the reviews written by professional critics, of shows that we had seen ourselves. While reading an article on the Abbey Theatre’s ‘King Lear’ on the train home, I felt as if my head had been lifted from its shallow cultural trough, for the first time.

Now, in under a fortnight, I am blessed to be returning to the genuine capital, from October 4th to 6th to watch and discuss three productions as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival.

For this  weekend filled with theatrical enlightenment;  I will be joined with only 14 fellow young crtiics this time.   The 16th member, Alice Murphy, is cast in I’ve To Mind Her a play by Shaun Dunne, which we will be critiquing (no pressure, Alice).


We will also see Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett, along with Ground and Floor, by Toshiki Okada; a Japanese production with English subtitles.  Needless to say, our expectations are skyhigh, and I expect that even these will be surpassed.

I look forward with eager anticipation to the Young Critic Panel, where we can discuss our views with the public at the Project Arts Centre, Templebar.

The Young Critics programme has given me the opportunity to look at a whole new level of theatre. It has broadened my horizons, leaving me hungry for new plays, shows and productions. It has thought me to voice my opinions; that mine are just as important as those of any professional critic. It has introduced me a new kind of writing, a new lease of creativity, and to some truly terrific people.

And as if that all wasn’t enough; it has shown me how to find the GPO.

The Young Critics Panel discussion will take place in Project Arts Centre at 1pm on Sunday Oct 6th. This is a free event and tickets can be reserved from Dublin Theatre Festival Box Office 

Put that in your notebook- I,Malvolio

I, Malvolio  written and performed by Tim Crouch
Peacock Theatre, Dublin
9 March 2013
Review by Michael Mc Grath

As the 19 members of our group (16 young critics and the facilitators Alan, Karen, and Diane [they’re also critics – we’re all critics!]) piled through the door of the Abbey’s Peacock Theatre, our expectant gazes were met with an accusing glower. It came from a figure dressed in excrement-stained pajamas dotted with flies, and bright yellow stockings, standing in a sparsely decorated set.


Tim Crouch in I, Malvolio
Marcus Yam for The New York Times

Variations of these actions; our engagement and Malvolio’s judging looks were repeated over and over, and we were also soon met with his accusing words. The routine was denied the chance to stagnate by the increasing brutality of our relationship with one another, culminating in the arrival of a noose. An hour later we left our seats feeling a bit puzzled after Malvolio’s subtly-delivered “revenge,” a surprise that we are promised from the start, a punishment for our casual sins. Puzzled and intimidated but also intrigued and impressed. This I won’t spoil for you on the off chance that you are ever given the chance to see Tim Crouch’s brilliant I, Malvolio.
This is a one-man play told from the perspective of Shakespeare’s Malvolio, locked in his prison after the curtains have drawn on Twelfth Night. He is eager to have his say as he peers down on his squirming audience, and often orders us up to the stage to stand with him under the spotlight, literally and figuratively, in this clever performance.

“I am not mad,” Malvolio insists to his audience, whom he regards with contempt but who he believes need to respect his sanity. “Put that in your notebook” he spits at us after noticing our hasty scribbling. This is a taste of Crouch’s witty improvisation which dots I, Malvolio and provokes the most laughs in response to the play.

Soon after “mounting the horse of the script” — as the wonderfully strange half-Malvolio, half-Crouch puts it — we are told exactly how Malvolio intends this “well, whatever ‘this’ is” to go: he will first make us laugh and then attack us for laughing. This is the root of I, Malvolio, which brings the human cruelty inherent in comedy out in the open, where it both causes and silences our laughter with constantly changing tides of glee and guilt.

© Michael Mc Grath 2013

Young Critics March 2013 by Saoirse Anton

When I found out that I had been chosen to take part in the NAYD Young Critics weekend, I was over the moon!
For the two weeks before the weekend,I could talk of nothing else. On some occasions, the anticipation of an event is more exciting than the event itself but this was certainly not the case with this weekend! From the comical moment as myself and Niamh walked past the GPO staring at, ( and being stared at by) another member of the group as we tried to ascertain whether or not they were part of the Young Critics then eventually decided they were and joined them, I knew it would be a fun weekend!

Young Critics arrive at Abbey Theatre for King Lear

Young Critics arrive at Abbey Theatre for King Lear

The weekend was a non-stop whirlwind of activity. We leapt straight in on the Friday evening with a three hour workshop which introduced us to the programme and to each other.

Then on the Saturday, we were up bright and early, despite the busy day before, ready for another workshop followed by “I, Malvolio” and “King Lear”. I had been looking forward to the productions immensely and they were every bit as good as I expected, better in fact!

That Saturday was one of the best experiences I have ever had in theatre. The plays made me laugh, cry, think and wonder throughout. It was also was the busiest day, we met Karen, prepared to see the plays ran for buses desperately trying to extract change from our bags, saw two brilliant pieces
of theatre, scribbled surreptitiously in our notebooks, chatted, laughed and munched our way through a scrumptious dinner at Luigi Malone’s!

After that whirlwind of a day, we settled down in the common room at Marino to eat some supper, discuss our day and play cards and other games, we even asked to have our curfew extended. This was an example of how great the weekend was, normally, if you had that busy a day you would want to tumble into bed and go straight to sleep but we just wanted the day to go on and on!

The Young Critics discuss King Lear

The Young Critics discuss King Lear

The next morning, we had our last workshop where we critiqued the plays with Alan and Karen. It was a really interesting workshop as we found out all of the different opinions and ideas everyone had about the plays.

After that, we had to catch our last bus (cue another mad dash to the bus stop with suitcases, change and laughs flying in all directions!) and go home.

I would have loved the weekend to last longer but I suppose I have to be content with the thought of our next one in October (six months away, such a long time!)

The Young Critics weekend was a fun-filled, fascinating, fantastic weekend where I learnt lots, made 14 new friends, (I already new Niamh), and had the time of my life!

Saoirse is a member of Laois Youth Theatre

Gulliver’s Travels – A Review BY Niall McDaid

Photo by Ros Kavanagh

Photo by Ros Kavanagh

The  National Youth Theatre production of 

Gulliver’s Travels

by Johnathan Swift, adapted for the stage by Conall Morrison

I went to see the NYT’s production of Gulliver’s Travels on Monday 26th August. As it was the first preview I was expecting one or two small mistakes but I didn’t notice any. It was clearly very well rehearsed and well put together. I really liked the way it looked exactly like a professional production but kept the feel of a youth theatre play about it. The story was shown very clearly and the use of a live camera feed to help show the size difference between Gulliver and the Lilliputians worked very well. Never having been to the Peacock before, I was expecting a larger stage and auditorium but I really think the smaller stage worked well as the show felt much more personal. All sixteen cast members were absolutely brilliant! The animated facial expressions were a real highlight for me. Overall it was an excellent show, well written script, brilliant performance from the cast, great style and just a spectacular show and I’d highly recommend it. 

Niall McDaid is a member of Letterkenny Youth Theatre and a recent participant on the NAYD Young Critics International Encounter

Gulliver has finished it’s run at the Peacock Theatre and has now travelled down to the Everyman, Cork. Three shows only.


Venue: The Everyman
Dates: 5 -7 September at 8pm.
Tickets: €18. Concession €15  Family price €60 (2 adults, 2 children)
Youth Theatre members €12 (not available online)
Bookings: Phone The Everyman on 021-4501673