Jockey by WillFredd Theatre. Reviewed by NAYD Young Critic Dara Eaton

As the Young Critics hit the stage of the Dublin Theatre Festival  on Oct 4th, we publish the final in our series of summer reviews. Dara Eaton from Carlow Youth Theatre visited the G.B Shaw Theatre in Carlow for the World Premiere of Jockey.

WillFredd Theatre
George Bernard Shaw Theatre, Carlow
Reviewed by Dara Eaton

After hearing great things about WillFredd Theatre’s innovative work, I went to their production of the one-woman show Jockey, made by professional dancer and choreographer Emma O’Kane, with many questions. How much dialogue should I expect? Would the play tell a story, or simply display a variety of impressive dance moves? As a drama critic reviewing a story told through dance, I may have left with even more questions than I had going in.

Emma O'Kane in Jockey by WillFredd Theatre Co.

Emma O’Kane in Jockey by WillFredd Theatre Co.

The show tells the story of O’Kane, who hopes to gain a better understanding of her late grandfather’s passion for horse racing by learning to be a jockey. As the performance progressed, visual effects such as newspaper articles projected onto screens and voice-over samples filled us in on the career of Phillip De Burgh O’Brien, who operated as a writer for a racehorse magazine and as a bloodstock agent, selling horses to jockeys for upcoming events. The story was basic, dwelling more on how certain situations affected the main character than how they altered the world around them. This is something that would normally fascinate me, as I believe the emotions of a character are explored more thoroughly when there is less emphasis on the outside world, and I felt prepared for a powerful display of expression. However, any feelings O’Kane experienced were conveyed through movement alone, an element I am unfamiliar with and that at first seemed intriguing, but eventually became repetitive and predictable. The movement on stage often seemed almost misplaced, without any obvious tie to what the character was experiencing emotionally.

Regardless of these concerns about the choreography, the dancing was spectacularly executed by O’Kane. As it was the production’s world premiere, I went in expecting some hiccups, but each dance number was rehearsed and performed to perfection, which caught the attention of everyone in the audience. The production was quite extraordinary to look at, as a set packed full of screens with constantly changing news articles ensured the viewer was kept alert throughout.

Even these screens had a drawback, though, as the ever-altering text meant that much of the story was lost. Though I admire the innovation, being caught between reading the text and watching the movement left me and the group I went with unaware as to what was going on at times, which drew me out of the experience of the show. I found myself fumbling through the programme in an attempt to understand what exactly I was watching.

Undoubtedly, Jockey left me with mixed emotions and I am of two minds as to whether or not to wholeheartedly recommend this play. Would someone with more interest in physical theatre enjoy this piece more than I did? Or were my observations fair from the perspective of any theatre fan? The only recommendation I can give, is for you to see this play and decide for yourself.

Dara Eaton is a Carlow Youth Theatre and is an NAYD Young Critic for 2015.

The G.B Shaw Theatre kindly supported this event.

My English Tongue, My Irish Heart by Martin Lynch. A Young Critic Review by Vinny McBrien

In the run up to NAYD’s Young Critics Panel on Sunday Oct 4th as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival, we are publishing a series of reviews from the Young Critics.

Over the summer months we asked the Young Critics to attend some shows in their own home venue. We asked them to make a short vlog review of the experience. We then asked a selection of them to turn these into written reviews. Dr. Karen Fricker offered some editorial advice.

With just a week to go until the Young Critics hit the Dublin Theatre Festival  we review My English Tongue, My Irish Heart by Martin Lynch

 Keith Singleton, KerrI Quinn, MargaretMcAuliffe & CillanODee. Image Credit Ruth-GonsalvesMoore ( 2015).

Keith Singleton, KerrI Quinn, Margaret McAuliffe & Cillan O’Dee. Image Credit Ruth-Gonsalves Moore ( 2015).

Green Shoot Productions

The Dock, Carrick-On-Shannon

Reviewed by Vinny McBrien

My English Tongue My Irish Heart, an in-depth look into Irish emigration to England across time, was both historic and intriguing to watch. The plot focuses on a 21st century couple, Susan (Kerri Quinn) and Gary (Cillian O’Dee), living in Dublin. He is from Mayo and is a bit of a culchie, while she is an adventurous young woman from Tyrone. She wants to emigrate to England, but Gary does not want to leave Ireland. The play also interweaves into the plot smaller stories of people emigrating from different periods in the past including labourers, bottle washers, and pickpockets. As the play moves from scene to scene, this sometimes becomes confusing, as it is hard to figure out what era the play is in or which story is being told. The script itself contains interesting facts about emigration but sometimes this becomes too much when a bundle of information comes at you all at once.

When the audience enters, we see Martin Lynch’s and Niall Rea’s set design of one large box in the middle of the stage with smaller ones piled on top. When the actors came out, they sing while moving the boxes; I found this to be a very clever metaphor for the work the emigrants were seeking in the new places they were moving to. The whole cast sang traditional Irish songs during the performance, and special praise has to go to Margaret McAuliffe, who is an amazing singer. The lighting is basic with spotlights on centre stage and to the corners, which would black out in certain scenes. The audience sits around the theatre, with some at tables. This works well in a pub scene, as it makes you feel like you are in the pub watching the action go on.

My English Tongue, My Irish Heart by Martin Lynch

My English Tongue, My Irish Heart by Martin Lynch

The acting is very believable and enjoyable. The actress who stands out the most is Kerri Quinn; her presence on stage, comedic character, and natural presence really make the production. One downfall is that the actors did not always play to the audience in this theatre-in-the-round. When the action was on the other side of the stage, I felt distant from the play.

This production aims to teach the audience about Irish emigration to England. While it does achieve this somewhat, in my experience the play is more educating than entertaining, and at times I lost interest. I would particularly recommend it to people who have an interest in history, and I have to compliment the cast and crew on their hard work and research, which was clear to see.

Vinny McBrien is a member of Leitrim Youth Theatre Company Carrigallen and an NAYD Young Critic for 2015

The Dock, Carrick On Shannon  kindly supported this event.

Salt Mountain by Carmel Winters- A review

A former NAYD Young Critic reviews the latest NAYD National Youth Theatre Show, Salt Mountain by Carmel Winters.

Droichead Youth Theatre Online

After taking some time to deliberate, we have Aoife Gallagher and Andy McLoughlin this week giving their two cents on National Youth Theatre and their production of Salt Mountain by Carmel Winters last month!

The story told in Carmel Winters’ Salt Mountain is as familiar as it is topical. The play focuses on a community thrown out of their homes and left to survive with nothing but the community around them, occasionally showing the aloof and apathetic response of the powers deciding their fate. The play is performed by NAYD and featuring our very own Lorna Kettle.

Now, the first thing which struck me about this play was of course, the set. It just can’t be ignored for as soon as one walks in they immediately notice this unusual set, featuring huge mounds of real salt in the middle of the stage, resembling mountains. This in itself was unusual, to…

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A Well Crafted Pair of Shoes. An NAYD Young Critics Review by Marie Lynch


In the run up to NAYD’s Young Critics Panel on Sunday Oct 4th as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival, we will be publishing a series of reviews from the Young Critics.

Over the summer months we asked the Young Critics to attend some shows in their own home venue. We asked them to make a short vlog review of the experience. We then asked a selection of them to turn these into written reviews. Dr. Karen Fricker offered some editorial advice. The second in our series of reviews looks at The Man In The Woman’s Shoes by Mikel Murfi 

The Man in the Woman’s Shoes by Mikel Murfi

Loco and Restless Productions (production originally commissioned by the Hawk’s Well Theatre and Sligo County Arts Office)

Backstage Theatre Longford

Reviewed by Marie Lynch

Don’t take the title too literally! This play, written, directed and performed by Mikel Murfi, is not simply about a man in women’s footwear. Rather it gives us a look into one person’s enlightening, endearing life. I’m not one to usually enjoy one-man show as I think they can feel more like a recitation than a play with little or no action. However, during this performance I was completely immersed.

Set in rural Ireland in 1978, the play focuses on Pat Farnon, a country cobbler. We see him make a simple five-mile journey to town and back. We meet a wide variety of colourful characters along the way such as the iconoclastic Kitsy Rainey and conventional Huby Patterson. But the hook of this play is – Pat Farnon cannot talk. Instead of hearing him converse with others, we hear his thoughts, hopes and aspirations.

I admired Murfi’s characterization and ability to change from one character to another in a split second. It was visually pleasing and never hard to follow and understand which character was speaking.

Mikel Murfi in

Mikel Murfi in “The Man in the Woman’s Shoes.” Credit Vitaliy Piltser

The characters were perfectly scripted and you felt as if you were actually meeting locals from the town. The story was simple and told with good old Irish humour but never felt cheesy. It had a nostalgic feel which strongly affected the audience. Pat’s enthusiasm for life radiated onto the spectators continually throughout his ups and downs.

The set was bare. The lights were kept to a minimum and the only sound effects were made by Murfi himself who can play a very convincing dog. The design overall could have been perhaps expanded but for me it worked the way it was. The decision to keep the staging of the production so minimalistic was a clever device as it in turn reflected Pat’s simple life. This added to the play on a whole.

While this play had no complex plotline, it was full of life lessons and I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it ultimately uplifting. Murfi had a continual optimistic outlook and celebrated the life of ordinary people. It is a play for all ages and all walks of life. The play hooks you in from start to finish and I would highly recommend it.

Marie Lynch is a member of Backstage Youth Theatre and an NAYD Young Critic 2015.

Backstage Theatre Longford kindly supported this event.

An NAYD Young Critics review of My Second Self by Derek Masterson

In the run up to NAYD’s Young Critics Panel on Sunday Oct 4th as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival, we will be publishing a series of reviews from the Young Critics.

Over the summer months we asked the Young Critics to attend some shows in their own home venue. We asked them to make a short vlog review of the experience. We then asked a selection of them to turn these into written reviews. Dr. Karen Fricker offered some editorial advice.

First up, Olwyn Bell reviews My Second Self 
by Derek Masterson

My Second Self by Derek Masterson

No Tears Productions

Civic Theatre, Tallaght

With the successful marriage referendum a few months in the past and “Yes” posters nowhere to be found, some might forget how LGBTQ rights only recently started to become a reality in Ireland. My Second Self shows us the two different sides of homosexuality in our country and reminds us how we still have a long way to go for equality.

The play starts with Leyton telling us about himself through a monologue: he’s gay and that’s fine with him. Thommas Kane Byrne’s character is confident — maybe a bit too stereotypical! His apartment is filled with pictures of gay icons like Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe which sets the tone as light-hearted. He is a 23-year-old man and the whole world is his stage. He is the embodiment of the “gay best friend” and maybe he uses this to hide his softer side.

Then we meet Paul (Barry Roe), who is seemingly the opposite of Leyton — a well-put together man in a three-piece suit, drinking coffee in a humble cafe. But he is like Leyton in one way: he’s gay. He meets Leyton just after attending his son’s funeral. It is revealed that Paul’s son committed suicide after coming out as gay. His son’s worst nightmare came true when his mother reacted badly to the news. Paul’s reaction is guilt as he lost his son to his own shame of being gay and not being as strong as his son to admit it.

One half of the stage is dedicated to Leyton’s apartment while the other is the cafe. This staging really worked as we see the metaphorical connection of Modern and Old Ireland. When Leyton and Paul meet at centre stage, older and younger generations come together towards a deeper understanding of homosexuality.

This play has a message of understanding: Ireland is changing and homosexuality is becoming a part of everyday life. People like Leyton are able to love who they want without much prejudice, while Paul had to hide his sexuality away. But this doesn’t mean that Leyton hasn’t got other problems to face. We see his feelings in a dream sequence in which both Leyton and Paul communicate their inner thoughts. The real Leyton, a broken man who needs his father’s love, contradicts the upbeat party animal we met at the start. Paul has hidden problems as well; we see his shame about being “a gay man in a straight situation” and about not being there for his son. This scene allows for deep character development.

My Second Self did an excellent job in showing the evolution of homosexuality in Ireland. We are given the older vision through Paul and the contemporary side with Leyton. Even in modern times, we see that the two men have lost something because of their sexuality: Leyton lost his father while Paul lost his son. This play has tragic elements with a mixture of comedy to make us realise that prejudice and fear around homosexuality are still a real thing.

Olwyn Bell is a member of Tallaght Youth Theatre and an NAYD Young Critic for 2015.

Join us on Oct 4th at 1pm to see the Young Critics in Project Cube as part of Dublin Theatre Festival. 

The Civic Theatre Tallaght kindly supported this event.