Cosy at Firkin Crane – Reviewed by Sinéad Barry

Our Young Critics Online kicks off this Friday June 19th for our first ever online session. We’ll be meeting our 19 Young Critics for the very first time and starting our critical journey together.

For this week’s entry, Sinéad Barry from Lightbulb Youth Theatre in Co. recalls a production from the Cork Midsummer Festival, this time last year.

I attended the production ‘Cosy’ by Kaite O’Reilly in Firkin Crane in Cork last year. The production was about three generations of women as they tackle the topics of youth, ageing and death. Rose, the grandmother, wishes to die with dignity, and her idea of this is to take her own life in a way that she sees fit. Her three daughters and granddaughter arrive at the family home, where the story picks up. There are discussions of what makes a good death, with some slightly unorthodox methods of coming to a conclusion.

The Cast of Gaitkrash’s ‘Cosy’. Cork Midsummer Festival 2019.

 I really liked the grandmother’s character, Rose. At her core, she’s a sad and depressed woman who wants to be free from her ageing, failing body. She has an intense, emotional monologue in the final scene, where she reveals why she badly wants to take her own life.

I didn’t particularly enjoy a scene in which Rose and her Welsh friend attempt to ‘practice’ a method of suicide on Rose’s eldest daughter. I felt that the scene was unrealistic and came out of nowhere. Up until then, Rose didn’t seem like the type of person to so much as pretend to harm one of her own.

One aspect of the production I really enjoyed was the prominence of Rose’s antique chair. It was present in almost all scenes, and during Rose’s final monologue, she sat in the tall, imposing chair which emphasised just how small Rose was in that period of her life. Overall, I think it was a brilliant, if not macabre, production.

Sinéad Barry is a member of Lightbulb Youth Theatre, in Mallow, Co. Cork and a Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critic for 2020.

Sinéad has been a member of Lightbulb Youth theatre for six years and has been a part of five shows. Since joining, she has participated in several Midsummer Meet Ups, as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival, and has done various workshops related to this, such as Young Critics workshops. She participated in a script reading as part of an environmental awareness project in the UCC theatre building. Sinéad wants to gain a deeper understanding of the work that goes into making a production, learn to give constructive criticism, and meet new people.

Every Day I Wake Up Hopeful – Reviewed by Ellie O’Connell

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!

The Glass Menagerie & Medea – Two Classic Gate Theatre productions. Reviewed by Young Critics Katie Lacey Curtis & Marc Cheevers

Continuing our series of reviews by this year’s Young Critics, we turn our attention to Dublin’s Gate Theatre. Known for its repertoire of classics, the 2019/ 2020 season saw productions of Tennesse Williams’ 1944 The Glass Menagerie alongside a new version of Medea by Kate Mulvany & Anna Louise Sarks after Euripides.

 

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Gate

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.

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Katie Lacey Curtis from Making Waves Youth Theatre, Greystones, Co Wicklow, reviews Medea.

Recently I saw Medea at the Gate Theatre and it has quickly set itself as one of my favourite performances.

I was unsure of the play at the beginning as it was very static as the boys ‘played dead’ for about five minutes, but I was awoken when they began to play again, their energy filling the room as they ran around the stage as they played. Medea herself only appeared for around 20 minutes of the play in total, each time appearing more frantic and distraught than the last, which greatly added to the suspense as we were not the wiser as to when she would murder them.

The two boys were the perfect embodiment of the two brothers and whilst they fought we saw not long after how much they cared for each other and really got on. The boys singing ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ brought a tear to my and many other’s eyes as we knew they would not live to be adults.

The use of set and lights also worked amazingly. As the boys passed in Medea’s arms the lights dimmed leaving a plethora of ‘stars’ behind them.

However, I did find that following Medea’s final monologue the play ended very abruptly, leaving little time for the room to breath and her last words to ring out.

Katie Lacey Curtis is a member of Making Waves Youth Theatre and a Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critic for 2020.

Katie has been a member of Making Waves Youth Theatre for 3 years since its founding in 2017. During these years she has taken part in both of their 2 shows and taken part in many workshops focusing on improvisation, movement and script work, as well as writing. She is looking forward to seeing a large range of shows, learning more about criticism in theatre and then getting the opportunity to properly critique them.

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Marc Cheevers from Explore Youth Theatre, Leixlip, Co.Kildare turns his eye to The Glass Menagerie.

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The Glass Menagerie by Tennesse Williams

Last year, my youth theatre viewed a play called The Glass Menagerie in the Gate Theatre. It was a very well made production with each scene not only capturing my interest but also my curiosity. Its concept was simple. A family in 1940s America but the sister was crippled, so the family had to look out for her. The accents were quite solid, sometimes their natural accents would slip through but other than that, the acting was quite good. The costumes well suited the period and there was an excellent use of music. In the end, the family has torn apart and I cannot deny that I didn’t shed a tear. Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable piece and I would see it again.

Marc Cheevers is a member of Explore Youth Theatre and a Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critic for 2020.

Marc has been a member of Explore Youth Theatre for 1 1/2 years. He has been involved in a number of productions and improvised pieces. He is looking forward to viewing more productions and improving his critique skills.

 

Rough Magic’s Much Ado About Nothing reviewed by Máiréad Phelan

The 2020 iteration of Young Critics, has like most events globally, been deeply affected by the COVID19 pandemic.

Usually, at this time of year, we are all buzzing with Young Critics excitement. Our group would have met for the first time and had a great weekend together in Dublin.  As spring moves towards summer, the group would begin thinking about some of the great shows they could see in their local venues and start to make their critical reviews. None of that will happen this year.

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.

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Rough Magic Theatre Company’s Much Ado About Nothing. Photo Credit: Ste Murray

Our next Young Critic is Máiréad Phelan. She is member of Free Radicals Youth Theatre, based at Siamsa Tíre Theatre, Tralee, Co.Kerry.  Here she reviews Rough Magic Theatre Company’s touring production of Much Ado About Nothing. 

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.

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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.

Going Full Havisham by Emma Corrigan

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.

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Irene Kelleher in Gone Full Havisham

Our next review comes from Emma Corrigan. She is a member of Monaghan Youth Theatre. and was lucky to catch Gone Full Havisham by Irene Kelleher at the Garage Theatre, Monaghan back in February.

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?

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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 is a member of Monaghan Youth Theatre and a Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critic for 2020

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 Fall of the Second Republic – A Review by Ruairí Phelan

The 2020 iteration of Young Critics, has like most events globally, been deeply affected by the COVID19 pandemic. This upcoming weekend of April 17- 19th would have been our first weekend together as Young Critics.

So instead of bringing our group to Dublin for their first weekend, 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.

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The Fall Of The Second Republic. Photo Credit: Ros Kavanagh

Our third Young Critic is Ruairí Phelan from Dublin Youth Theatre. Here he turns his attention to The Fall of the Second Republic by Michael West in collaboration with Annie Ryan. It ran from Feb 24th and recently finished its run at The Abbey Theatre .

The Fall of the Second Republic by Michael West and Annie Ryan aims to cover a lot in two hours. Created in collaboration with the award-winning Corn Exchange, the play is typical of the company’s style (picture heavy makeup, exaggerated movement, and dark eyebrows drawn in symbols resembling a Nike tick).

Set in 70s Ireland the play centres on a threat to the much loved The Theatre Royale, and a plot to destroy it to make way for the International Banking Centre (IBC). When a protester against the demolition is caught and killed inside a mysterious fire at the theatre, and the government is linked to the blaze, there’s uproar.

In the aftermath, our heroine – journalist Emer Hackett (Caitriona Ennis) – investigates Taoiseach Manny Spillane (Andrew Bennett) and his colleagues who many suspect are linked to the deadly fire.

Confused? I was, and it’s all a little busy with so many topics, as the play struggles to find its central theme, jumping around heavyweight issues including sexism, abortion, corruption and Irish/British relations.

But there are many triumphs, and The Abbey lives up to its recent promise to better reflect Irish life and culture. Meanwhile the talented cast give impressive performances and effortlessly transport us to the 70s helped by Sailéog O’Halloran’s clever costumes and Katie Davenport’s wonderful set.

There are great lines, and delicious parallels to contemporary political post-election wrangling: “A coalition with the wankers?” laments one member of the losing majority party, “It would be like marrying your cousins.”

Leo Varadkar might agree.

Ruairí Phelan is a member of Dublin Youth Theatre and a Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critic for 2020.

Ruairí Phelan is a performer, writer, and proud member of Dublin Youth Theatre where he gained entry through audition two years ago.

Ruairí, 16, has been acting since he was six and acting up since he was born! His recent productions include Primo Dolce as part of DYT’s Members One-Act Festival and The Sleepwalkers — Dublin Theatre Festival and Pan Pan Theatre. As well, he is Assistant Director for two plays and recently won a week training scheme at The Abbey.

He’s a keen videographer and enjoys listening to podcasts and messing around in GarageBand. He’s a terrible dancer but gives it a lash anyway. Ruairi loves all form of theatre. He has too many favourite plays and writers to list but considers seeing any work an honour and is looking forward to analysing theatre in-depth to discover what works and what doesn’t. He hopes this will help to make his own work better.

Warhorse- Reviewed by Dylan Gallagher

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.

 

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Credit: National Theatre

Next up, Dylan Gallagher, from Leitrim Youth Theatre Company Carrick On Shannon reviews The National Theatre’s Production of Warhorse. This production toured to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in April 2019.

 

 

 

Dylan Gallagher is a member of Leitrim Youth Theatre Company – Carrick On Shannon and one of Youth Theatre Ireland’s Young Critics for 2020.

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.

Youth Theatre Ireland Announce ‘Young Critics Online’

To celebrate the announcement of the 2020 panel of Young Critics, Youth Theatre Ireland presents Young Critics Online for young people aged 16 and over. You can enter by sending a review of a performance you have seen recently or of a performance that you view online.

Youth Theatre Ireland Announce ‘Young Critics Online’

 

Youth Theatre Ireland urges young people who would like to try their hand at reviewing to send in a written, video or audio review. Three selected reviews will be published on the Young Critics Blog and one reviewer will get to attend the Young Critics panel at Dublin Theatre Festival in October, plus 2 tickets to a show of the winners choice at the Festival. Full details of how to make a submission can be found here.

Announcing Young Critics Online, Youth Theatre Ireland’s Director, Michelle Carew said, “Given the surge in availability of high-quality online theatre in response to COVID-19, this is a great time to offer a taster of the Young Critics programme to young theatre lovers across the country. We want this to be fun, and would urge young people to be as inventive in their critical responses as they can.”

Currently companies around the world, from Broadway to Londons West End, to the Royal Shakespeare Company and Irish National Opera, are making their content available to watch online for free, so there are lots of performances from which to choose.

For tools to help you with your review check out the resources at youngcritics.eu. These resources are designed to support young people in developing their understanding of theatre and their abilities as theatre critics. Developed by the Youth Theatre team and the respected theatre critic Karen Fricker, all content here has been further enhanced through a partnership with Youth Theatre Arts Scotland, with inputs from Scottish practitioners and young people. Both young people and practitioners can interact with a variety of content including video, animations, downloadable workshop plans, review samples and tips from the experts.

Youth Theatre Ireland has delivered a Young Critics Programme for well over a decade to hundreds of young people. Selected reviews will be announced at YouthTheatre.ie and social media channels. Closing date is 30 April at 5pm.

For more information and to apply, download the Young Critics Online Submission Form here.

This initiative is open to all young people aged 16+,* who are resident of the Republic of Ireland. You do not have to be a member of a Youth Theatre Ireland affiliated youth theatre.

*Not open to current or former Young Critics.

Howie The Rookie – A Review by Heather Jones

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.

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First up, Young Critic Heather Jones from Giant Wolf Youth Theatre reviews Howie The Rookie at the Civic Theatre in Tallaght. Presented by Glass Mask Theatre as part of a national tour, this review contains ***MAJOR SPOILERS*** for Howie The Rookie.

This delightfully emotional, witty, thought-provoking play by Mark O’Rowe is truly a sight to behold.

The play centres on two dual monologues – delivered by our main characters ‘the Howie Lee’ (Stephen Jones) and ‘the Rookie Lee’ (Rex Ryan), some of Ireland’s most exciting actors – taking the audience on an adventure of two individuals fighting for survival and meaning against a Dublin City pulsing with violence.

Some of the truly incredible elements of the show come in the form of delivery, lighting and sound design and its conspiracy ending.

The delivery by each actor is truly miraculous. The authenticity and immersive-ness of the performance allows for the play to envelop the audience in all elements of the plot, themes and believability of the characters. Even the delivery of the play’s major twists and turns are done so with ease by Jones and Rex. The physicality and recall of these extraordinary actors is unbelievable as well and is certainly commendable, admired and one of the most memorable attributes of the show.

But an actor can only be as good as their tools, and in this case the writing for this theatrical piece is remarkable. The play is structured in two acts, with each act as one monologue delivered by their respective character – Act One saw the ‘larger than life’, the Howie Lee, as the storyteller with Act Two, looking toward ‘the playboy’, the Rookie Lee, to pick up the torch. With each act capping in at nearly 50 minutes, the performances of Jones and Ryan are looked on with awe and admiration by their audience.

The lighting and sound design are other elements that resulted in such an incredible play. Due to set design – or lack thereof, with nothing but an empty stage for the actors to play with – every flicker of light or hum of a note was noticed by the eagle-eyed and elephant-eared viewer. All lighting arrangements were easily recognisable and clearly helped to establish the setting in the face-paced, ever-evolving story. Even the subtle music cues of soft filler music or cheesy love songs aided in the telling of a sensual, emotional story.

Finally, the mysterious ending. This is where the debate begins. What? That’s all I can say about it. Theories range from ‘he’s obviously dead’ to ‘it’s all in his head’. Regardless of what it all means, it truly is an intriguing ending. It is one that sticks with an audience as we are left to ponder and theorise, making the play memorable. For me personally, I would have liked a little more detail or sense of what it meant – as my friends and I were left flabbergasted and longed to know what the heck we had just seen. It definitely took a turn that both no one expected or understood.

Nonetheless, I really enjoyed the play and would encourage everyone to go and see it – but be warned, prepare to leave the theatre wondering what just happened.

Heather Jones is a member of Giant Wolf Youth Theatre and one of Youth Theatre Ireland’s Young Critics for 2020.

Heather has been a member of Giant Wolf Youth Theatre for just over a year.

She has loved every second of this experience and learned so much about herself and theatre as a whole. She has been involved in physical theatre, movement, stage combat, writing and general production workshops within her time in Giant Wolf. They, as a theatre, have done one major production called ‘Eggplant’, centred around teenage sexual relationships, sexual maturity and sexual education. She has participated in a European Youth Theatre Festival called ‘Intertwined’ in Cottbus, Germany.

Heather would love to gain more expertise and understanding of theatre from the Young Critics Programme. Having in-depth discussions is something she loves to do and getting to have those discussions on plays and theatre is like a dream come true for me. She’d love to become an actor or something within the world of drama when she’s older too and feels this programme will benefit her greatly.

She would also love to make new friends to last me a lifetime also. Getting to meet like-minded people who share common interests is always exciting and seldom seen. And seeing a few shows for free doesn’t sound too bad either.