From April 28th – May 1st 2020 the Abbey Theatre broadcast fifty short monologues as an immediate response to COVID-19 and the first lockdown in Ireland.
The brief was simple, What should Ireland write on a postcard to itself?
A whole year later, our newest group of Young Critics had the unique opportunity to revisit one of the pieces and watch it in isolation. Thanks to the generosity of the creators, the group had a private viewing of The Rock, written by Phillip McMahon and performed by Caoilfhionn Dunne.
We have a trio of short reviews from Anna Lynch,Evie Howard and Sarah Carolan for you to enjoy.
First up, Anna Lynch shares this review
The Rock by Phillip McMahon, part of the Dear Ireland project by the Abbey Theatre. Rating: ★★★★
The Rock poses to Ireland some uncomfortable questions, mainly how far have we as a society really come in terms of LGBTQ+ acceptance?
Written by Phillip McMahon and part of Abbey Theatre’s Dear Ireland project, The Rock is presented to us in the form of a video diary filmed by the only character. It’s recorded during a Covid-19 lockdown as a way of documenting the run-up to her wedding and to have as a keepsake for her future, but presently non-existent kids. We are privy to the troubles and turmoil the relationship between the character and her partner Carol have endured, see how internalised homophobia is still present in modern day Ireland and learn how important communication and co-operation are in relationships.
Caoilfhionn Dunne portrays the role of the angsty other half perfectly, capturing not only the essence of the lockdown madness, but also portraying the pressure of being a lesbian in Ireland. Taking into consideration the fact that the entire monologue is self-recorded and has no director, one has to applaud how smoothly the video runs.
The entire performance is intimate and personal, creating the illusion that the viewers are part of their lives. The script was outstanding, full of the Irish humour we all know and love. In particular, McMahon’s consistent references to rocks was extraordinarily clever when describing the feelings and thoughts of the character. It makes us think about how Irish views on the LGBTQ+ community and how indiscreet homophobia, even from loved ones, can have a profound impact on lives.
At times the monologue was perhaps spoken too fast, making it difficult to understand. However, overall, the short performance was excellent. This is definitely one to watch if you’re in the mood for some food for thought.
In this witty and realistic account of lockdown life in Ireland, Phillip McMahon tells an engaging and thought provoking story of a Dublin woman struggling with tradition, family, and identity.
The Rock was written as part of the Dear Ireland project, an initiative run by the Abbey Theatre in order to keep theatre alive during a nationwide lockdown. The idea is simple; 50 pieces written by 50 playwrights which were then self-taped by 50 actors. All the pieces were written with one theme in mind; ‘what should Ireland write on a postcard to itself?’
This theme is one that Phillip McMahon pulls off particularly successfully, raising a number of talking points about Irish society. In The Rock, we watch as the main character (played by Caoilfhionn Dunne) speaks directly into the camera in a way that feels very vulnerable and intimate. The piece is formatted as a video diary and we learn that she has proposed to her girlfriend and since revoked her proposal, telling a story of self-doubt and relationship troubles relatable to many. She also tells of problems with family, as she struggles to rebuild bridges with her homophobic mother. McMahon manages to pack a lot of information into the short few minutes of this piece of theatre while still keeping the dialogue natural, and Dunne makes a great performance, keeping consistent energy throughout.
As for negatives, of which there are few, the dialogue can be difficult to understand at times, especially for those unfamiliar with the Dublin accent, and the background is bland and can be distracting, but these issues are minor, and given The Rock was self-taped under unique circumstances, it can be forgiven. Overall, well worth the watch and I would recommend seeking it out should the opportunity to view it arise again.
The Rock- online performance for Dear Ireland- Abby theatre- written by Phillip McMahon- performed by Caoilfhionn Dunne
The rock is an insight into the stone cold society that we live in, with deep rooted beliefs that affect us more than we may think. A worthwhile watch that you, for sure, won’t take for granted.
The main character (played by Caoilfhionn Dunne) breaks the fourth wall, talking directly to the camera about her experience of lockdown through the format of a video diary. She tells us about the societal pressure she feels in everyday life and gives us an insight to how she makes decisions that affect her. She proposed to her girlfriend, but questioned what marriage meant to her. She tells us about the strain on the relationship with her mother, who has never fully accepted her sexuality.
Overall it was an extremely well put together piece. The subtlety of Caoilfionn’s performance was impeccable, to the point where it felt natural, as if she was talking to us through the diary. I also think the online medium was used to its fullest potential. Being able to adapt a story to the circumstances we find ourselves in, and not feel out of place, is a huge skill.
The design was simple and didn’t distract from the piece, but I wonder if a more cluttered backdrop could have reflected on the obstacles the characters have overcome.
With that said, it carries an extremely important message, making you examine the importance of “social norms” in today’s society.
Here Aoife Murphy gives us her take on To Be A Machine (Version 1.0)
Laughing in the face of level 3 restrictions, Dublin Theatre Festival held their head up high as they re-imagined what we know as theatre and delivered a superb socially distanced performance.
Developed and supported by the Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin, ‘To Be a Machine (Version 1.0)’ by Dead Centre and Mark O’Connell, is adapted from the Wellcome Prize-winning book by Mark and explores the idea of theatre without the barrier of a body. Staring critically acclaimed actor Jack Gleeson, playing himself, he actively attempts to not be a machine while the audience watches the live performance from Project Arts Centre in the comfort of their beds.
What is a forty five minute performance on the exploration of technological possibility and the limits of live performance, feels like a mere second. I found myself craving for more bewilderment when it ended. With its plot line hard to follow, I’m still confused as to what I witnessed exactly. But I think that’s what makes this piece that bit even more interesting. It doesn’t have one solid interpretation, so audiences can take what they want from it.
The slightly eerie atmosphere and wonderful cinematography makes gaining a sense of a personal connection to Jack seamlessly easy as he looks straight into the camera, into us, and rarely breaks eye contact. His soft voice is calming and Jack deals with some minor technical issues very professionally.
The only thing that took me out of the immersive experience is seeing my fellow Young Critic’s faces uploaded on a tablet screen, placed where we would have been sitting if we were physically at the theatre. It’s strange to witness; however it gave me some joy recognising people I know in the sea of digital profiles.
This trippy theatre performance will mess with your mind, challenging what you think you know with the exploration of the philosophical concept of what is existence. In a world constantly looking for answers to big questions, I feel that if this play were to give a solid response, it would suggest that there’s always an absolute to the trivial parts of life.
A 5/5 star performance rating.
Reviewed by Aoife Murphy Oct 3rd 2020.
You can listen to an audio version of this review here:
Youth Theatre Ireland returned to Dublin Theatre Festival for the 17th iteration of Young Critics.
This year has been like no other, with a Young Critics programme to match. Between June and October, eighteen young people from across Ireland honed their critical skills from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
They have been guided on their journey of critical discovery by our expert facilitators: Alan King in Dublin and theatre critic Dr. Karen Fricker in Toronto.
Over the course of the Dublin Theatre Festival, the Young Critics engaged with several programmed events and presented their critical responses at this special online panel.
Young Criticshave been working with digital tools for criticism for the last number of years and the 2020 panel was an opportunity to showcase this like never before.
This is an edited version of the Young Critics Panel discussion that took place on Sunday, Oct 11th at 4pm.
Ellie has been a member of Activate Youth Theatre for 3 years and has participated in a variety of workshops and productions in this time. She also has interest videography. She is thrilled to be taking part in the Young Critics Programme 2020, and can’t wait to meet new people and learn all about critiquing theatre!
Towards the end of last year, on the 9th of November 2019, in the Siamsa Tíre Theatre in Tralee, Co. Kerry, I saw Rough Magic’s production of Much Ado About Nothing. It was very well advertised play; with an almost full house on the night I attended, with people of various age groups filling up the seats of the theatre.
At first, I was apprehensive of going. Shakespeare plays, to me, always seemed like drab, dull affairs due to my only experience being that of my Leaving Cert and Junior Cert required Shakespeare play, but Rough Magic blew me away with their incredible performance of Much Ado About Nothing.
Rough Magic took a modern approach to the classic drama-comedy, setting it in a colourful summer caravan park, with the character’s costume and roles updated for the modern era. This was, admittedly, a strange contrast to the Shakespearean English they were using, but I felt it just added to the wonderful, absurd humour that ran throughout the play.
Absurd, loud, colourful, and humorous seemed to be the main components of this play and the talented actors in Rough Magic pulled it off brilliantly. It was a crude and wacky play, with the introduction of outfits for the male actors and a hilarious dream sequence in which a character, Benedick, looses, his *ahem* Bene-dick. The prop they used, of course, was a sausage.
With a less talented cast, the script may have come across as too corny or in-your-face, but the talented actors in Rough Magic projected well, hit their lines and were wonderful both in the comedic scenes and the scenes that carried a bit more dramatic weight.
Rough Magic Theatre Company’s Much Ado About Nothing. Photo Credit: Ste Murray
Two characters, who were both a comedic and a dramatic centrepiece, in my opinion, were Beatrice and the aforementioned Benedick. At the beginning of the play, both characters despised each other, but by the end, they were in deep love, though still bickered. The actors made this seem like a natural progression and were one of my favourite plot-threads in the play. It was hilarious and somehow, this entirely comedic play got me incredibly emotionally invested in the relationship and character dynamics.
Rough Magic’s Much Ado About Nothing was a gut-busting and surprisingly emotional play, with a highly talented cast. I would highly recommend both Rough Magic for its talented actors and clever use of modern settings, while Much Ado About Nothing for anyone looking for a feel-good play about love.
Máiréad Phelan. She is member of Free Radicals Youth Theatre and a Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critic for 2020.
Máiréad Phelan has been a member of Free Radicals Youth Theatre in Siamsa Tíre for 3 years now. During this time, she has done 6 stage performances and attended several workshops, centred on acting, writing and stage production. She immensely enjoys writing and does so in her (little) spare time. Mairead is looking forward to what she can learn from Young critics and to meet all new people who might share her interests, as well as seeing some hopefully interesting new shows.
The 2020 iteration of Young Critics, has like most events globally, been deeply affected by the COVID19 pandemic.
Ordinarily, our Young Critics would have met up for the first time over the Easter holidays, been introduced to each other and the art of criticism and seen some amazing shows together. Unfortunately, that couldn’t happen, as Ireland, like most countries worldwide, is under lockdown.
In an effort to share the Young Critics experience with our readers we are running a selection of their initial reviews.
These reviews were submitted as part of their Young Critics application. As such, they represent the first steps on their Young Critics journey. We hope you enjoy them.
Irene Kelleher plays “one tough little nut” Emily in Regina Crowley’s eye-opening Gone Full Havisham, shown in the Garage Theatre Monaghan, based on Dickens’ renowned novel.
The startling yet memorable performance left little to the imagination and the audience in complete shock from entering the theatre where Kelleher, the ex-bride lay in a state of lunacy until the end where Kelleher walks off-stage for the first time leaving an emotional and confused audience behind, metaphorically leaving her past life behind. As the story moves along Emily describes to us the trials and tribulations of her childhood it becomes coherent how inevitable it was that Emily would eventually lose the plot.
The piece written, exquisitely by Kelleher herself strategically displays the series of tragic events leading up to Emily’s ultimate downfall into mental turmoil. Although the hour-long play left me unsatisfied with the lack of conclusion and plenty of room for deeper character development. What did Emily and the audience gain from this experience?
Irene Kelleher in Gone Full Havisham
The one-women show was pulled with style, to the extent where it felt as if there was a large cast on stage at times. The focus was on Emily for the entirety of the play. The directorial instruction to keep Kelleher centre stage was successful and had a long-lasting, profound effect on her performance, aiding my favourite climactic moment where Emily breaks all socially acceptable boundaries screaming “GET OUT!”. This worked because this moment was completely different compared to the rest of the play in terms of lighting, sound and facial expressions.
One aspect of production that stood out to me was the visual and lighting effects. The fact that Kelleher managed to take a classical, dated story and completely modernise it without ruining the plot is an art in itself. Lighting by Paul Denby and video and sound design by Cormac O’Connor really brought the production to a whole and more appealing level.
Kelleher and Crowley’s intimate bond is shown through her dignified facial expressions, body language and consistency throughout her long-lasting monologue.
It isn’t often that I would recommend a play this highly but the enthralling, captivating performance and plot opens a new world of emotions and underlying twists with each viewing.
Emma Corrigan has been a member of Monaghan Youth Theatre for nearly 4 years. During this time, she has played a part in plays such as “The Patriot Game”, “Dear Chuck” and “Thirteen”. She particularly enjoys workshops based around devising and improvisation. Emma is a keen writer who looks forward to seeing and discussing shows alongside people like her looking to learn the art of theatre criticism.
The 2020 iteration of Young Critics, has like most events globally, been deeply affected by the COVID19 pandemic. So instead of bringing our group to Dublin for their first weekend together in April, we will be running a selection of their initial reviews.
These reviews were submitted as part of their Young Critics application. As such, they represent the first steps on their Young Critics journey. We hope you enjoy them.
Dylan has been in Carrick-on-Shannon youth theatre for 3 years now. Joining Youth theatre was a surprise his parents organised for him, as they knew he had a huge interest in acting from a young age. In his first year of youth theatre, He played the main protagonist of Terry Dumpton in The terrible fate of Humpty Dumpty.
During this time he has done many workshops on improvisation, acting and poetry. Dylan kept practising these skills such as poetry and reached the All Ireland semi-final of Poetry Aloud. In the second year of drama, Carrick-on-Shannon youth theatre was selected to go to Playshare 2019 where they performed Beetroot By Lucy Montague Moffatt. He played the role of Mike, the local bully. Throughout the year Carrick-on-Shannon youth theatre had many workshops with other drama facilitators of local drama groups, here Dylan learned many new skills from the different areas they specialized in. The same year Dylan tried out a new programme called the creative arts group. Dylan learned a new creative skill each week such as storytelling, scriptwriting, lighting and sound. This year he is playing the role of the magician in All Out and Over by Christina Matthews.
Dylan has been a YouTuber for over a year now. He usually posts gaming clips but is hoping to start recording short sketches and upload them to his channel. He also streams on twitch where he uses games to create roleplay scenes and tell stories.
He is planning on launching a podcast on Spotify in the near future where he will talk about a range of different topics from ghost stories to teen news.
He’s hoping Young Critics will help with his Leaving Cert comparative study. He will learn how to compare shows to a high standard. It will also help him to be able to voice his opinions which he will use online and offline.