‘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).

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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 

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