Aftertaste Review By Pádraig Harrington

In our latest review, Youth Theatre Ireland’s own National Youth Theatre production comes under the watchful eye of the Young Critics gaze.

Aftertaste by Ciara Elizabeth Smyth is a thought-provoking, original piece that takes a well-timed look at a dystopian near future without any sugar-coating. 

Aftertaste is the culmination of 22 young people aged 16-20 from Youth Theatres across the country working together to celebrate the National Youth Theatre, an event organized by Youth Theatre Ireland and supported by the Abbey Theatre. This production is especially made for YouTube and was intended to be watched as a pre-record rather than as a live stream or in a theatre. It is  directed by National Youth Theatre Director Veronica Coburn.

The play is set in an Ireland where the National Alliance Party have rose to power led by President Sanbrooke Martin (Samuel Ferrie) on the one-year anniversary of the passing of the Health and Wellness Act, banning foods with a high sugar or fat content. As a result of this, many are left starving and Junk Advocates have arisen, people eating illegal foods on their social media accounts and condemning the government. Several of these Advocates have been going missing, including 21-year-old Lila Birch (Daisy Hartigan) who has been missing for 6 days. Lila’s sister, Eadie Birch (Ella O’Callaghan) is getting no answers from the authorities. Meanwhile, there is internal strife within the National Alliance Party; Vice-President Jana Kaminski (Julia Szarota) is vying for President Martin’s position and journalist Oisín Ó Hanluain (Odhran Exton) is seeking to undermine the President’s policies. 

These various political operatives, movie stars and the staff of The Royal Marine Restaurant eventually collide in a moment of frenzy at an ill- fated anniversary dinner honouring President Martin.

The excellent ensemble is completed by Caoimhe O’Farrell, Abbi Breen, Sadhbh McDonough, Tristan Spellman Molphy, Matthew Eglinton, Abhainn Harrington, Max Mufwasoni, Cara Mooney, Adam Henry, Aileen Broidy and Seán Loughrey.  

The actors had to overcome the obstacle of a pre-recorded performance and convey a realistic portrayal of an authoritarian regime. They were able to do this whilst maintaining a certain amount of levity. We were given a detailed overview of this darker life from multiple societal perspectives, political leaders and glamorous celebrities to the everyday people who are affected by their actions. Overall, the actors more than deliver on their attempts to engage, entertain and make us think. 

Sets were not heavily integral to this production and most often simple plain colour backgrounds were used with some exceptions. Basic props such as chairs, tables or podiums were used to set the scene. The politicians’ costumes are bright pinky-purple pastel colours while in comparison the outfits of the ordinary people are drab, dreary shades of brown. We also see the uniforms of The Royal Marine, crisp, professional attire. The work of lighting designer Suzzi Cummins is bright and powerful, stimulating the viewer and evoking emotional reactions. Sound designer Sinead Diskin and visual designer Cherie White work in tandem to provide an intense, rhythmic audio coupled with striking visuals which works together to pump up the audience and bring across the broader feelings of the piece. I think these various components combine to form a strong, successful use of design. 

In closing, Aftertaste is a unique play that peers into the darker sides of wellbeing and healthy eating. This is a show that cannot be missed. 

Aftertaste was broadcast on the Abbey Theatre’s YouTube Channel from Aug 8th- 15th 2021. Produced by Youth Theatre Ireland.

Pádraig is a member of Rusty Frog Youth Theatre, in Skibbereen, Co. Cork and is a Young Critic for 2021.

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