From the Mourne Mountains to the Marino Institute. One Young Critics’ Journey by Pierce McNee

I was about to embark on what would be one of the best weekends of my life!

I had been hiking in the Mourne Mountains twenty four hours before this with my school and now I found myself on a bus to Dublin. I was about to embark on what would be one of the best weekends of my life!

I arrived on O’Connell Street an hour later and headed straight for McDonald’s where I waited in anticipation for what was to come.

We all met at the GPO. I was somewhat nervous at first as I didn’t know anyone, but after just a few short minutes I felt like I had known these people my whole life.

We then traveled to the Marino Institute of Education where we met with the rest of the group.

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Next we got settled into our accommodation after which we had our first workshop in one of the lecture halls, playing games to get to know each other. We then had some extremely interesting discussions with Dr. Karen Fricker,  a professional theatre critic, on topics such as what theatre is, the different jobs within theatre and what an outing to the theatre is like.

Later that night we sat and talked in the common room. We also had some tasty snacks and numerous cups of tea. I really enjoyed this as there was such a relaxed atmosphere and it was really easy to talk to everyone. We all got along so well.

On Saturday morning we were up and out bright and early for our second workshop where played games relating to movement in theatre and which emotions certain poses represent . We also played memory games. After this we researched the plays by studying photographs, casts, where it had been staged before and other elements of the plays. I found this to be very useful and greatly informative, as it gave me a greater understanding of the plays.

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Kate Stanley Brennan as Nora in The Plough And The Stars. Photo: Abbey Website

Then it was time to make our way into the city centre to see our first play, “The Plough and The Stars”, by Sean O’Casey in the Abbey Theatre. It was a magnificent piece of theatre. There were also modern elements such as contemporary clothing in that specific production, as well as elements from the period in which the play is set. It was a hugely significant time to go to see the play as it was the one hundred year anniversary of the 1916 Rising and it was also the weekend of the actual Rising when we were in Dublin.

Afterwards we got to meet one of the lead actresses in the play which was just amazing. She told us about her experience of being in the play and talked to us about her career and how she feels about acting. We also got to ask her questions on those topics. Next we went for dinner and had some utterly mouth-watering pizza.

The time then came to see the second play of the evening. It was called: “Tina’s Idea of Fun”. I truly loved this play. It was a new play which was performed in the Peacock Theatre and it had only opened that Tuesday.

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An image we used as part of our research into Tina’s Idea of Fun. This photo is from the Queen’s visit to Ireland in May 2011. Photo credit: Tim Hales/ Associated Press

Alan, the Youth Theatre Officer at the NAYD, had told us before the play began that we would be staying in the auditorium for a few minutes after the play had finished and I didn’t think anything of it at the time. However, when the play came to an end, Alan informed us that we would be meeting the whole cast! I was absolutely flabbergasted.

They sat on the stage and talked about how they got involved with the play and their feelings towards the play. We then got the opportunity to ask them questions. I asked them if they had any advice for aspiring actors and they all gave me the best advice that I could ever have asked for. This was probably my favourite part of the weekend as we were given a brilliant insight into the life of a stage actor and it definitely inspired me to just keep pushing myself as an actor.

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The Plough and The Stars Photo credit: Ros Kavanagh

On Sunday morning we had our final workshop. In this workshop we discussed the productions we had seen the previous night. This was again very insightful and useful in coming to a conclusion as to my opinion on the the plays and the way in which I interpreted them.

Our last activity of the day was  finding out what our project for the coming months would be. It will involve going to see a play with our youth theatres and then critiquing the production in the form of a video blog. I have already started working on the project and I am really enjoying the process of putting each component together to complete it.

This weekend was honestly a weekend that I will never forget. I learned so much about critiquing theatre, met lots of new friends and had such a magnificent time overall. Finally, I would like to thank Alan King,  Dr. Karen Fricker and the welfare officers for a truly incredible weekend and I would like to thank the NAYD for giving me this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Pierce McNee is a member of Dundalk Youth Theatre and an NAYD Young Critic for 2016

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