Fern Kealy is one of Youth Theatre Ireland’s Young Critics for 2019.
Fern recalls an action-packed first weekend spent with fellow Young Critics in Dublin from April 12-14th.
Fern Kealy is a member of Kilkenny Youth Theatre
Our Young Critics 2019 are:
Kevin Aylward- Limerick Youth Theatre
Maeve Bartley – Co.Limerick Youth Theatre
Clodagh Boyce- Dublin Youth Theatre
Ruth Corrigan – Mayo Youth Theatre
Susie Dooley – County Carlow Youth Theatre
Adam Dwyer – County Carlow Youth Theatre
Leah Farrell – Backstage Youth Theatre, Longford
Jesse Flynn – Dublin Youth Theatre
Fern Kealy – Kilkenny Youth Theatre
Seán Loughrey – Droichead Youth Theatre, Drogheda, Co.Louth
Jeanette Michalopoulou – Sligo Youth Theatre
Sinéad Mooney – Kildare Youth Theatre
Aisling O’Leary –Act Out Youth Theatre, Navan, Co.Meath
Grace Sheehan – Activate Youth Theatre, Cork
Holly Roynane –Act Out Youth Theatre, Navan, Co.Meath
Oisín Tiernan – WACT Youth Theatre, Wexford
Young Critics is one of Youth Theatre Ireland’s most popular and innovative programmes. Over a six-month period, participants will see some incredible shows, make new friends and learn about the art of theatre criticism.
It is open to youth theatre members who are interested in watching theatre, discovering how and why theatre is made, and learning how to critically discuss, analyse, and review theatre.
During the programme, young people are given an opportunity to see quality productions while developing their critical skills under the mentorship of international theatre critic and academic, Dr. Karen Fricker, and Youth Theatre Ireland’s own Alan King.
This year the programme will include a particular focus on engaging with different forms of criticism. These will include writing reviews and developing blogs, making podcasts, creating video blogs, and much more.
Young critics has helped make new friends, learn to express my opinions, gave me insight to lots of different types of theatre and gave me the tools to voice my critiques in a number of ways. – Young Critic 2018
WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE YOUNG CRITICS?
The Young Critics will first meet in Dublin from Friday April 12th to Sunday April 14th and again from October 11th – 13th. Over the two weekends the Young Critics will attend at least four theatre productions, and participate in workshops and discussions, facilitated by the mentors.
In October, the group will meet up in Dublin again to see further productions, take part in more workshops and participate in a public panel event as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival.
In between the two residential weekends, the Young Critics will have the opportunity to see other productions and make critical responses through the use of digital technology.
The Young Critics will be supported by our professional mentors through workshops, tutorials and online support forums.
HOW DO I APPLY TO TAKE PART IN YOUNG CRITICS?
Participation in the programme is totally free: accommodation, meals, theatre tickets and travel costs are covered by Youth Theatre Ireland.
It is open to youth theatre members who will be aged 16 – 20 by April 1st 2019. We are looking for young people who are comfortable meeting new people, working in a highly focused way and are willing to share their thoughts and opinions with each other. A love of theatre and an enthusiasm for engaging with digital tools are a bonus.
We will provide you with all the skills and tools needed to take part fully in the programme. To be a Young Critic you must be fully available for both weekends. You must also be available to take part in online discussions and see some theatre shows yourself between the two residentials.
Youth Theatre Ireland will have welfare leaders in place on both weekends to ensure the wellbeing and safety of all participants.
If you are interested in the programme, please download the application form,fill out fully and return by post only to:
Young Critics Programme, Youth Theatre Ireland, 7, North Great George’s Street, Dublin 1 by Thursday March 14th by 5pm.
If you need further information please contact Youth Theatre Ireland:
Office phone: 01 878 1301 or Email Alan King
In order to offer individual advice and guidance on developing each young person’s critical skills, places on the programme are limited to a maximum of 16.
Please visit the Young Critics Resource Suite for lots of hints and tips on running a Young Critics Programme and creating critical responses.
Creative Commons is a 2-year project funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme. It provides Youth Theatre Ireland and Youth Theatre Arts Scotland, our sister organisation in Scotland, with the opportunity to share best practice across sectors and build new resources in Young Critics practice and Young Leader mentorship and skills development.
The Young Critics International Exchange brought 24 together from Ireland and Scotland for five days in Dublin. During the Easter holidays, the group took part in workshops and saw a number of professional productions at theatres across the city.
Luke Murphy from Lightbulb Youth Theatre in Mallow, Co. Cork was selected to take part in the programme.
Here Luke reflects on those five days in Dublin.
“Youth Theatre Ireland’s Young Critics International Exchange 2017 was a fantastic experience that both provided skills in forming critical opinions on theatre, as well as exploring the different means of doing so. What resulted was five enjoyable days in Dublin city.
Arriving at the GPO, I met up with 13 other Irish youth theatre members, as well as some of the staff from Youth Theatre Ireland. Immediately I was faced with a whole group of friendly people who seemed just as excited for the week’s events as I was. We travelled to the Marino Institute, which was where our workshops and accommodation were located. Upon arriving, we met an additional ten youth theatre members from Scotland. This were all members of groups affiliated to Youth Theatre Arts Scotland. One of the things that impressed me the most about the experience was how well everyone got along, and how quickly friendships formed.
Of course, the workshops were a great way of achieving this. We would each get our own time to express opinions of the various productions we saw, as well as what we were expecting prior to the performances. I found that discussing theatre can be just as exciting as watching it live. It was incredible to see the different perspectives from which people approached the shows we saw. The best thing about the workshops, was how they felt at the same time both a focused discussion on a piece of theatre, and a casual chat about a play.
The shows in question were The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Silent, and The Train. I think overall everyone enjoyed the productions, whether it was viewing them or discussing their reactions afterwards. The plays were very diverse in themes and style, from one man shows to musicals. This allowed us to review different types of theatre, and the elements that these consisted of.
We were guided by a professional group of leaders, who each had their own experience in theatre. They helped us structure reviews, and explore modes of reviewing other than writing, for example vlogging and podcasts. They were very friendly and approachable, accepting questions on how to improve our own skills.
Each day held a new experience. The workshops were unique, each focusing on particular skills crucial to a critic. We also had the chance to explore parts of Dublin city, and enter some of the most famous theatres in the country, such as The Abbey and The Gaiety. I’d never been to any of these theatres before, so getting to see productions in them was a great experience.
I can genuinely say the I made great friends and memories at Young Critics 2017 and I hope to continue the experience in the months to come, between discussing theatre online, and meeting up with the other young critics once again at the Dublin Theatre Festival. I am delighted to be involved in this project, and it has really peaked my interest in theatre, as well as how to critique it.”
Luke and his fellow young critics will be seeing some shows at their local venues over the summer. They will be making critical responses and we will be posting a selection of them here over the coming months. You can follow the exploits of the Scottish Young Critics here
In the run up to the Young Critics Panel as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival on Oct 9th, we’ve been publishing a series of written reviews by our Young Critics.
In our final review, Rita Havlin from Donegal Youth Theatre reviews The State Of The Nation by Conor Malone
The State Of The Nation is a political satire questioning Ireland’s progress since the 1916 Rising. The play is set during a poker game in the afterlife, during which four famous figures of Irish politics, Thomas Davies (James Lawne), Jim Larkin (Peter Byrne), Michael Collins (Cillian O’Gairbhí), and Charlie Haughey (Conal Gallen), discuss the changes in the country over the last hundred years and the issues it still faces. I found this to be a very interesting way to frame this debate, literally asking “Is this the Ireland the revolutionaries dreamed of?”
A simple set design helps the audience focus on the content of the play. The action takes place on a raised white platform around a large table; a hat stand and a sideboard with decanters of whiskey stand at either end of the platform. Dim lighting and smoke set the scene for a classic game of poker, while a green backlight gives a supernal feel. This worked extremely well in balancing the realistic with the non-naturalistic.
The actors did a superb job in balancing the speech and mannerisms of different points in history, making no word or action feel out of place while also managing to maintain realistic and strongly recognizable characters. Their only downfall, which was perhaps a fault of the play itself, was a lack of movement, as the actors only left the table to refill their whiskey.
Indeed the writing is where The State of the Nation falls short. The play is meant to be comedic, and while no lines fall completely flat and some earn a hearty laugh from the audience, many jokes are overused or too similar to previous ones, and quickly lose their punch. The play touches on many important issues such as government salaries and corruption, the introduction of water charges, and the cost of education, but brought up in such a short space of time each issue begins to sound the same and each discussion seems half-baked. There is no suggested solution for any issue, and so no debate feels complete before the play moves on to a new topic.
Staged as part of the Donegal County Council’s 1916 Commemoration, the play aims to celebrate Ireland as the country grows and develops, which it does to a degree, but it felt a little too critical of the nation to do this fully. The play fails to address the rich culture and art that Ireland has to offer, or the ways in which Ireland has progressed farther than many countries, focusing instead on the country’s political failings. However I must compliment the cast and crew as this production, despite its weaknesses, left me feeling satisfied, appropriately patriotic, and chuckling as I left the theatre.
In the latest in our series of Young Critics reviews, Pierce McNee from Dundalk Youth Theatre traveled to London to see The Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare’s Globe.
Cast: Aoife Duffin, Amy Conroy, Louis Dempsey, Imogen Doel, Colm Gormley, Aaron Heffernan, Genevieve Hulme-Beaman, Raymond Keane, Gary Lilburn, Edward MacLiam and Helen Norton
Performed at Shakespeare’s Globe; reviewed on Monday, 18th July 2016
Set against the backdrop of Dublin 1916, this is a classic play with an alternative twist, featuring an all-Irish cast. This choice of setting — one hundred years after the events that sparked Ireland’s drive towards independence — makes the staging of this production extremely significant. Katherine (Aoife Duffin) appears on the stage at the start of play and sings, passionately, an Irish ballad written by Morna Regan (dramaturg and lyricist) especially for the production. This firmly establishes the 1916 setting and showcases Duffin as a standout performer and a force to be reckoned with.
The Taming of the Shrew tells the story of two sisters, Katherine and Bianca. Bianca is intensely keen on being married off to a handsome suitor. Katherine has no ambitions to become attached to a man. There is one problem: Bianca cannot marry before Katherine, a.k.a. the shrew, is herself paired off.
Going in, I was rather sceptical as to whether or not the production would cater for only an Irish audience, but it does not overly enforce the 1916 theme, which only becomes apparent on a few occasions. For example, a small fraction of the history is played out in the lyrics of Katherine’s two ballads. This make the theme subtly present throughout the performance but the production is kept grounded overall in the original story.
Caroline Byrne’s production is full of side-splitting antics whilst still exposing the serious and sometimes poignant aspects of the play. The misogynistic elements are portrayed with the earnest tone they deserve. The comedic facet is aided in particular by Aaron Heffernan as Lucentio, with his incredible physical comedy and natural wittiness.
Other notable performances include Edward MacLiam as Petruchio, who offers a truly gritty portrayal of the character. He brings an amazing sense of tension with Katherine and this really keeps the audience on the edge of their seats for the intense scenes between them. Helen Norton as Grumio plays her character with great jocularity but also sincerity in the more sombre scenes.
The set, designed by Chiara Stephenson, starts with the traditional Globe stage design with its balcony and pillars. A large black structure is built into the opening at the upstage centre of the stage. This opens up at various points to reveal a staircase. At certain moments during the first half, the stage becomes a 1916 classroom as a prodigious abacus and an anatomical skeleton hurtle onto the stage. A pit of dirty water also appears at the downstage centre of the stage in which Katherine stands while singing one of her ballads.
The costumes, also in Stephenson’s more than capable hands, are eminently satisfactory and greatly fitting to the production. Many of the costumes are 1916-inspired with the women’s pieces heavily influenced by the Gibson Girl look. This also introduces the theme of women’s rights one hundred years ago and also in today’s society. The final speech, delivered by Katherine, allows us to reflect on how much has changed in terms of women’s rights since 1916, when women were so poorly treated.
Pierce is an NAYD Young Critic for 2016 and a member of Dundalk Youth Theatre in Co. Louth.
Invitation to a Journey
Reviewed on 21 July 2016
€22 million – the figure Eileen Gray’s Dragon Chair sold for in 2009. That’s all most people know about her. This production uncovers a great deal more than this fact, exploring the personal encounters in Gray’s life and sharing the accomplishments of this Irish artist with the Irish public.
Invitation to a Journey explores Gray’s life in vivid detail, from her colourful relationship with Damia, her French lover (portrayed powerfully by Kate Brennan), to her innovative career as an architect and designer. It is a co-production of Fishamble: The New Play Company, CoisCéim Dance Theatre, the contemporary music group Crash Ensemble and Galway International Arts Festival, and is written and performed in a groundbreaking way. The roles of the three dancers, three actors, and four musicians are melded to the extent that in some scenes it is difficult to tell them apart, especially in one scene where Damia and the dancers fight over a chair, all essentially becoming dancers.
The musicians wear costumes suited to the era and have their hair crimped in a ‘20s style, which connects them to the dancers in particular, as they have the same hairstyle. (In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that my mother Deirdre O’Leary was involved in this production as one of the musicians).
The show opens with the three dancers offering their interpretation of Gray’s architecture through movement. Half a dozen nine-foot-tall doors on either side of the stage are then flung open by the remaining cast members, which segues into the auction of the dragon chair. As the cast bid for the chair, Ingrid Craigie — the actor playing Eileen Gray — sits in a chair behind them and becomes fleetingly visible as the bidders exit the stage and the lights dim. Her presence becomes much stronger as the show progresses, although at times that presence is overshadowed by the sheer amount of things going on onstage.
Halfway through, the show enacts the construction of e.1027, the iconic house Gray designed for herself and her lover the Romanian architect Jean Badovici. String outlining the foundations is taped to the stage by one of the dancers as Gray struts around the stage carrying blueprints. Only shortly afterwards, Le Corbusier (played by Ronan Leahy) paints lewd murals on the pristine walls of e.1027, nude.
In an era when most women were married off, Eileen Gray was openly bisexual, almost insanely driven, and creative. She was modern when it wasn’t mainstream and this show echoes that crazy creative determination that possessed her. While this show ambitiously melds the roles of dancer, actor and musician, it would be interesting to see what the difference in dynamic would be if the musicians had more dialogue with the rest of the cast and if Gray was more involved in scenes with the dancers. The mixture of concrete and abstract information presented through the different art forms gave a strong impression of someone’s personality. It seemed to be trying to express an inner creativity and drive that I now associate with Eileen Gray.
Ciara is an NAYD Young Critic for 2016 and a member of Fracture/ Play Youth Theatre in Tipperary
The Young Critics Panel will take part on Oct 9th at 1pm at Project Cube. Chaired by Dr. Karen Fricker
Back in 2013 NAYD was approached by Seóna Ni Bhriain from the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon. They were looking at existing models of engagement that could help Junior Cycle students have a greater understanding of, and participation in the Arts. NAYD’s Young Critics was recognised as a model of excellence and became part of the Performing Arts Learning Service (PALS) PALS initiative.
The PALS Pilot initiative took place in the run up to the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2013. Here a group of teachers experienced the Young Critics programmes themselves, taking part in workshops, seeing several productions and attending the Young Critic Forum at Project Arts Centre. The workshops were designed and facilitated by Alan King and Sarah Fitzgibbon. Several teachers who could not make the Forum in Dublin were able to participate via a live stream. The programme was co-ordinated by Seóna Ni Bhriain, with IT support by Deborah Dignam.
The Arts in Junior Cycle emerged as part of a joint pilot initiative of the Department of Education and Skills , Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT) and the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon. It was developed in the context of the introduction of the new Framework for Junior Cycle in 2014, and the Performing Arts Learning Service (PALS) Feasibility Study commissioned by the Arts Council. The initiative is based on partnership and collaboration with key partners across the arts and education sectors. NAYD is one of these key partners.
Arts in Junior Cycle aims to support teachers and students to engage with the arts as an integrated part of the post-primary curriculum in Ireland.
In 2014 a suite of four different workshops were developed and rolled out nationwide. They were Page to Stage, Film in Focus , Speaking Shakespeare and Young Critics. Each was designed and delivered by highly respected arts facilitators. They were assisted and supported by group of dedicated teachers from the JCT support team, under the brilliant co-ordination of Karol Sadlier.
The response from the teachers was phenomenal. They could see how our models of working could be adapted with their students in a classroom setting. For the Young Critics, the workshops conveyed the notion that theatre was a living breathing thing and not just words on a page. For students this is often a huge barrier to cross in their understanding and enjoyment of theatre.
Following the success of these two programmes we are looking forward to working with the JCT team again later in the year.
To keep up to date with developments in Arts in Junior Cycle, you can visit their great website here, which also has lots of great resources for drama.