Ulysses at the Abbey Theatre – Young Critic Review by Pippa Molony

It’s been a busy few months since the Young Critics last met in April as they have been honing their critical skills while seeing shows up and down the country.

With the Dublin Theatre Festival looming over the horizon, we reflect on some of the productions the Young Critics saw over the summer.

To whet your appetite for festival season, Young Critic Pippa Molony gives us this epic review of Ulysses at the Abbey Theatre

Elsewhere our Young Critics saw Pat Kinevane’s Silent, The Aspirations of Daise Morrow at the Black Box Theatre Galway, Asking for It and Wet Paint at the Everyman Cork, Mamma Mia on the West End, A Doll’s House at the Roscommon Arts Centre and the Deadly Wizard of Oz in Dundalk.

 We will be announcing the Young Critics picks for the Dublin Theatre Festival very soon along with details of the Panel discussion itself.

Pippa Molony is a member of Dublin Youth Theatre and a Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critic for 2018.

 

 

CLASS – An atypical look at a seasoned setting. Review by Aaron Dobson.

Aaron Dobson from Leitrim Youth Theatre Company, Carrigallen shares this review of Class by Iseult Golden and David Horan

Classrooms are some of the most popular scenarios for plays – whether it be a story of a trip to the boarding school (Daisy Pulls It Off by Denise Deegan), or a teacher faced with the duty of educating youth (Alan Bennett’s  The History Boys is a great example), the classroom is the perfect closed-off space for many a show. But one thing that I have never seen worked upon on the big stage is a parent-teacher meeting – and CLASS does this to perfection, and more. You could almost say…. It’s a CLASS act.

Puns aside, this production was one of the most phenomenal experiences I have had from a small-cast production in a while. The setting never changes. The tension never changes. The actors never change…but their characters do. The story revolves around Brian and Donna (played by Stephen Jones and Sarah Morris) and the struggles they face bringing up their children in a broken relationship. The standing point in the story is that their 9-year old child, Jayden, is having troubles at school – and his teacher (Will O’Connell) is intending to enforce learning support upon him, which brings great grief onto Brian specifically.

Now this alone would make for an interesting story. The could have stopped here, added little else, and the play would still be a triumph and an excellent piece of writing. But co-writers David Horan and Iseult Golden, under Horan’s direction, deserve extra appraisal for going beyond this one idea and adventuring into unknown territory. At first I was worried when I heard about the actors “reverting into the younger generation”. However, when I first seen Brian transform into Jayden and Donna into the child of a drug addict, I knew this was something special. Their childlike states gave myself and the audience the information we needed about the situation at hand without a word spoken by the parents.

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Will O’Connell in Class by Iseult Golden & David Horan . Photo credit: Ros Kavanagh

The teacher himself faces some sort of internal conflict – between his own personal matters, the slowly derailing meeting and the children’s situation at their learning support. It was interesting to note how he deals with both children and parents, despite them being the same actors – For example, their transition from a dance routine to a tense, nervous situation between the same trio.  This transition was flawless – especially with the parents and their kids, who could revert from being hilariously out of tune with the rest of the world to stern, stubborn, angry at the world and ever situation around them.

The ending alone was one of the key points of the play, and possibly the part that shook me the most. Of course I won’t spoil it, but it finally became clear the true nature of Donna and Brian’s relationship, and the root of the majority of the problems faced throughout the play. Ultimately, the experience was riveting and exciting,  with comedic moments scattered throughout the play – but the true focus and underlying messages of terror in a school environment and possible mental issues stuck strong with me, and for this I would thoroughly recommend seeing this play.

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Stephen Jones and Sarah Morris in Class by Iseult Golden & David Horan . Photo credit: Ros Kavanagh

Class ran at the Peacock Theatre Dublin from 24th of January to February 3rd 2018. This production was reviewed at the Dublin Theatre Festival at The New Theatre in October 2017.

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Aaron Dobson is a member of Leitrim Youth Theatre Company, Carrigallen and a Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critic for 2017.

A Room With Two Views

As  2017 comes to an end we’re taking the opportunity to post some reviews from our Young Critics.

In total the Young Critics saw 15 shows this year. These include the six they saw in Dublin as part of Young Critics as well shows in the Abbey Theatre, their local venues, The Edinburgh Fringe and even the West End in London.

First up Lara Cody from Explore Youth Theatre gives us her impression of Room

I went to see the production of Room in the Abbey Theatre with high expectations. The production was first an international best selling novel which won many awards. This was then brought to screen and finally stage. The many awards Emma Donoghue’s writing has won, along with many positive comments from friends and family led me to expect a heartbreaking and moving production that will bring me to tears. I was not disappointed.

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Room tells the story of ‘Ma’ (Witney White), a young woman who was abducted at 19, she was held in a shed made into an all-purpose room, where she was beaten, raped and impregnated and her 5 year old son Jack (Darmani Eboji). The production begins with a light atmosphere as Ma and Jack go about their daily routines. It seems that everything is perfectly fine and there is no mention of ‘Old Nick’, their captor. Once Jack is asleep, we see the distress and frustration of Ma. The light atmosphere changes dramatically to a much darker, somber mood as Old Nick (Liam McKenna) steps into the room. The mood becomes increasingly darker and tense as the first half progresses and Ma is becomes more desperate to escape the room. The building tension climaxes in an incredibly powerful song sung by Ma. It left me clinging on to the edge of my seat, completely blown away and consumed by the performance and production. I did not want it to stop for the interval!

One thing that I was sceptical about was the musical aspect of the production. I was not sure how they would turn such a tragic story into a musical as there have been productions where the added musical interpretation has taken away from the powerful tale. However, I was happily surprised by the incredible music that most certainly added to the overall production. The moving and breathtaking ballads by Ma allowed us an insight into her thoughts and emotions, as the story is told from Jack’s perspective. I must admit that it was the musical talents of Witney White (Ma), Fela Lufadeju (Big Jack), Cora Bissett and Kathryn Joseph (Composers) that brought me to tears and left me talking about the production days after.

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Lara Coady 

The clever device of splitting the part of Jack into ‘Little Jack’ and ‘Big Jack’ was a great success. The use of a child actor allowed us to witness the innocence of a child along with accurately representing the intimate and protective relationship of a mother and child, while the older actor allowed us to see how imaginative, colourful, curious and questioning Jack is. This was a brilliant way to solve the problem of a child actor carrying the responsibility of such a big part. This Abbey Theatre and Theatre Royal Stratford East co-production was a great success and received a well deserved standing ovation. ‘Room’ deals with themes such as abduction, rape and depression in a powerful way, leaving the audience speechless and thinking of the production for days after. 5 stars.

Lara Coady is a member of Explore Youth Theatre, Leixlip Co.Kildare. She was a Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critic for 2017.


Meanwhile Cian McGrath from Free Radicals Youth Theatre in Tralee has this to say on Room.

Room is, at its heart, a play about love; more specifically, the love between a mother and her son. In Room these two characters are forced to endure their existence in a single room, with no contact from the outside world. One would think that this would allow for a great amount of empathy and emotional connection. But this play can only grasp for such emotion through contrived, over-sentimentalised scenes, whose only feeling it can evoke in this viewer is boredom and annoyance.

Room begins with our narrator, Big Jack (Fela Lufadeju) who narrates the daily process behind life in what is simply known as ‘Room’. This is when our two principal characters are introduced; Ma (Whitney White) and Little Jack (Harrison Wilding). This mother and son duo go about their daily routine in the most over-enthusiastic method possible; which should serve as a hint for the forced emotion the play tries to pry out of its audience as it progresses. Their rudimentary schedule is played out with such happiness that one would expect both characters to break out in song at any moment; fortunately, this is not the case.

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Witney White as Ma and Liam McKenna as Old Nick in Room. Image credit: Scott Rylander.

Not much information is revealed about our characters’ situation, but as the play progresses we realise that Ma was kidnapped years ago, and that inside Room she gave birth to Jack, her five-year old son. Her kidnapper, known only as Old Nick, is Jack’s biological father. And yet at no point are any of the real emotions behind captivity revealed; both mother and son simply go about their day with larger than life enthusiasm, except when they engage in shouting matches with one another. Little Jack’s thoughts are occasionally conveyed by Big Jack, but this is just another diversion; as the play progresses Big Jack’s role diminishes significantly.

This is essentially the major flaw of Room; its need for emotional intensity means that as the play progresses each scene invariably ends with someone shouting out in anger or hurt. In no scene are there ever any moments of quiet reflection; through mere dialogue the play becomes a bombardment of sound, and an assault on the viewer. At no point does this drama offer us a moment of silence, which could at least punctuate the passionate intensity of emotion displayed in other scenes. Room can’t seem to function without scenes in which characters bring themselves to the highest point of their emotional brevity, only for the next scene to begin with the same normal, regular emotion only to catapult into another barrage of furious shouting in an endless, tiring pattern.

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Liam McKenna as Old Nick and Witney White as Ma in Room. Image credit: Scott Rylander.

Onstage there is a large box which represents Room, the enclosed space in which Jack and Ma are confined to. And yet it never feels as though they are trapped in a confined space; there is nothing claustrophobic about Room’s set. Instead, it opts for a more unconventional approach; the set serves as something malleable, at one point even revolving. But while these may seem like ingenious techniques, they soon grow tiresome and are little more than gimmicks to make up for the play’s other deficiencies. Its interesting movements may captivate at first, but like the play, they do nothing to enforce the idea of entrapment or claustrophobia. Instead, they feel like little more than a smaller stage built solely for the purpose of flashy diversions.

Ultimately Room is a failure, due to its inability to understand the limits of emotion. Its scenes of emotional intensity play out in dizzying fashion, with each one further reinforcing the play’s lack of knowledge about an audience’s capacity for empathy. Room wants to be a rollercoaster of emotions, but ultimately it is a collection of missed notes and woeful script making decisions that only alienate any potential viewer. Witnessing it is like living through Groundhog Day; the reason for it may change, but each scene begins without any sense of what tone will be conveyed throughout, and will ultimately end in another failed attempt at emotional connection.

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Witney White as Ma and Harrison Wilding as Little Jack in Emma Donoghue’s Room. Image credit: Scott Rylander

Its deficiencies can be effectively captured in one scene in the play’s first act, in which Jack counts as far as he can to avoid having to hear any noise outside his room. Outside his closet a rape scene occurs between Old Nick and Ma, and it is clear that this is a regular occurrence in their lives. As this is happening the stage revolves, as Jack’s counting is timed with the creaking of the bed outside his closet.

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Cian McGrath

The whole thing becomes a twisted, sordid game and a parody of the emotion it tries to provoke. As the set continues to revolve onstage, the play has veered off wildly, and is far removed from the realm of emotional relatability.

Room is essentially that; a revolving stage with a clear target, but one that can never effectively grasp it. Its diversions can only go so far as to distract the viewer from it’s clear problem in conveying emotion.

Cian McGrath is a member of Free Radicals Youth Theatre in Tralee, Co.Kerry and a Youth Theatre Young Critics for 2017.

Room was staged at the Abbey theatre from June 23rd – July 22 2017.

Young Critics International Exchange by Luke Murphy

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.

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Young Critics Aaron Dobson (L) and Luke Murphy (R)

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.

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Theatre Critic Gareth Vile workshops with the Young Critics

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.

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Theatre Critic Karen Fricker (L) listens on as the Young Critics give their opinions

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.

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Luke Murphy and fellow Young Critics enjoying some social time in Dublin

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.”

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The 24 Young Critics from across Ireland and Scotland at the Abbey Theatre

 

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 

 

 

 

 

NAYD Young Critics at The Dublin Theatre Festival by Pierce McNee

It’s almost two month since the Young Critics panel discussion at the Dublin Theatre Festival. Pierce McNee from Dundalk reflects on three action packed days in Dublin. 

Friday Oct 7th 2016 

It was an eventful afternoon in Dublin, as ever.  Across the street a drum was was being beaten and a group of dancers performed to a large crowd. We were all reunited at the GPO and it felt like an age since the last time we had all seen each other. A great feeling came upon us all as we knew we were in for an absolute treat of a weekend.

 We could not wait!

We made our way to the Dublin Fringe Festival Lab, where we had our first workshop discussing what the Dublin Theatre Festival is, the different elements of the festival and what makes it different from going to see a play which is not running at a theatre festival. We also discussed the Project Arts Centre and its history.

After having some tasty pizza and further discussions, we headed over to the Project Arts Centre to see our first show of the weekend: Wishful Beginnings. This was a show that I think we can all safely say we will never forget! 

After the show we made our way back to the Marino Institute of Education whilst having intense post-show discussions as a group about Wishful Beginnings. This was by far the most interesting discussion I’ve had about a play as every single one of us had a different opinion. Some people loved it and some people hated. Not only that but everyone had their own ideas in regards to the themes explored in the show and how they were explored.

We returned to Marino and got ready for bed. Not one of us could cease to ponder on Wishful Beginnings.

Sat Oct 8th 2016

The next morning we had our second workshop where we discussed the history of the two most well known theatres in Ireland: The Abbey Theatre and The Gate Theatre. We talked about the nature of the plays they showcase and their target audience, as well as many other areas.

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In preparation for the Gate’s production of The Father by Florian Zeller. Photo Credit: Alan King


We would be going to see a play in the Gate that day. The play was called The Father. We discussed this play as well as our second play of the day: Alien Documentary, which was a piece of documentary theatre. This was something that I had never seen before.

After this, we went to see The Father. We also had the opportunity to meet with some of the stars of the show, Owen Roe, Fiona Bell and Peter Gaynor backstage. We had the chance to ask them some questions about the show. 

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Backstage at the Gate Theatre Dublin with the stars of The Father- Owen Roe, Fiona Bell and Peter Gaynor. Photo Credit: Alan King


We then had lunch in the NAYD offices. This was hugely interesting as we got to see the workplace of the people who are in charge of all youth drama across Ireland.

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The Young Critics got to visit the engine room of NAYD. Number Great Georges St. Dublin. Photo Credit: Alan King


Next it was off to the Jervis shopping centre for a quick spot of window-shopping and hot-chocolate drinking. It was then time for Alien Documentary. This was was being staged in the Project Arts Centre. When we got there I proceeded to take a quick trip to the toilet. As I was about entering the toilets, who did I meet? None other than PJ Gallagher himself. The famous Irish comedian and actor. He would be starring in Alien Documentary.

I will now be known by him as “that lad I met coming out of the jacks”!

When we got back to Marino, we all contributed eagerly to conversations on the plays we had seen that day. We also indulged in a few delicious chocolate treats to fuel our talks.

Sunday Oct 9th

On Sunday morning, we had one final workshop where we discussed each play we had seen and gave our opinions on them. We then prepared ourselves for our final Young Critics task: taking part in the  NAYD Young Critics Panel.

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Dr. Karen Fricker in discussion with Young Critics Pierce McNee and Jack Synnott. Photo Credit: Alan King

This was where we were split into groups based on which of the three plays we wished to speak about. I decided that that I would like to speak about The Father. We would be giving our opinions and discussing the play in front of an audience of roughly fifty people and Dr. Karen Fricker would chair the discussions.

First we participated in a mock panel with Karen in order to become familiar with what the proceedings would involve. I was slightly nervous but I knew that I would have my Young Critics colleagues as well as Karen and Alan there to support me.

We concluded the panel with an opportunity for audience members to ask us, the Young Critics, any questions they had regarding the plays we had seen or any element of the Young Critics experience.

As soon as the Q&A session ended, we all came to the realisation that our time on the NAYD Young Critics Programme had now finished. We all had an immensely melancholic feeling. However, we knew that we would all remain friends and chat regularly. We also knew that we would keep in contact with Alan King and the NAYD. Our time as NAYD Young Critics might have come to an end but our time as young critics outside of the programme had only just begun.

This has been a truly incredible experience for me. I would like to thank Alan King and Dr. Karen Fricker. As well as Debbie, Graham, Ciara and everyone at the NAYD for making the programme possible. I would recommend the NAYD Young Critics Programme to absolutely everyone.

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

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

NAYD’S Young Critics hit Dublin for 1916/2016 by Jack Synnott

Young Critics was an absolutely unforgettable weekend filled with everything a theatre loving 16 year old could ask for.

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NAYD’s Young Critics 2016. Photo credit: Alan King

Upon arriving at the Marino Institute of Education, our temporary lodgings for the weekend, we were treated to two great introductory workshops with co-ordinator Alan King involving a wide variety of drama games, helping us to get to know each other. After that we had some enlightening discussions with the fantastic theatre critic and scholar Dr. Karen Fricker, about every aspect of theatre and criticism from the making of theatre and its function to the duties of the theatre critic.

We then journeyed back to the common rooms for some late night chats and cups of tea before we hit the proverbial sack to get some much needed rest.

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NAYD’s Young Critics enjoying the sunshine at The Marino Institute of Education. Photo credit: Alan King

The next morning we embarked on what was probably the most unexpectedly enjoyable part of the weekend: the research. This involved rooting through a variety of articles on the themes, settings, context and creative teams behind each of the two shows we would be seeing that afternoon.

This really helped us to get a solid grasp on what to expect from the plays and it was interesting to see the similarities and differences between the two. We also did some work on the differences between objectivity and subjectivity and the importance of description, through more drama games, which was a fun way to hone these invaluable skills.

That afternoon we took the bus into Dublin to see the first of our two plays, Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars on the Abbey Stage. This was a really interesting take on an Irish classic, with director Seán Holmes really pushing the boundaries and gleefully playing with our expectation of such a revered piece.

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Janet Moran (Mrs. Gogan) meets the Young Critics after the matinee of The Plough And The Stars. Photo credit: Alan King

Afterwards we had the honour of meeting Janet Moran, the actor who played Mrs. Gogan. Through our discussion with Janet we gained a huge insight into the play, and how many of its ideas took form throughout production.

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NAYD Young Critics enjoy some intense post show discussions over dinner. Photo credit: Alan King

After a brief excursion to the Jervis centre and a gorgeous dinner, we returned to the Abbey Theatre to take our seats for the new play showing on the Peacock Stage, Tina’s Idea of Fun by Sean P. Summers.

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NAYD’s Young Critics arrive at the Peacock Theatre for Tina’s Idea Of Fun. Photo credit: Alan King

Set against the backdrop of Queen Elizabeth the Second’s visit to Ireland in 2011, this very funny  play asked questions about modern day republicanism while simultaneously examining the difficulties of motherhood and the dangers of isolation.

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Cast of Tina’s Idea of Fun by Sean P.Summers. Photo credit: Ros Kavanagh

Andrew Connolly (Paddy), Sarah Morris (Edel),Keith Hanna (Dave), Josh Carey (Bundy), Hilda Fay (Tina) and Scott Graham (Aaron) in Tina’s Idea of Fun by Sean P. Summers. Directed by Conall Morrison.

Featuring excellent, honest performances and a subtle, quiet script, this piece directed by Conall Morrison was hugely enjoyable. Immediately afterwards we were treated to a Q and A with the entire cast, an amazing opportunity that was both great fun and incredibly informative.

We finished off our action packed day with a group selfie on the bus and the wonder of cake before we retired once again to bed.

Sunday, the final day of the weekend was filled with emotional goodbyes and happy reminiscing, but we still found time for two panel discussions, dissecting each of the previous day’s productions.

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A Young Critic’s thoughts on The Plough And The Stars. Photo credit: Alan King

This was a brilliant morning, as we really got to get into the meat of what we had seen, debating every element of each of the shows and occasionally being shown an entirely new angle on certain aspects. It was great to be able to discuss the plays in such detail, with a group of people just as interested in them as you, and I left that workshop with a much deeper understanding of the plays than I had going in.

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Dr. Karen Fricker listens on as NAYD Young Critic Jack Synnott gives his thoughts on the productions under discussion

All that was left was for us to learn our assignment for the summer, to create a video blog reviewing a production in our local venue, and to say our goodbyes. It was sad to leave everyone behind, but we knew that we’d be back again in October.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the weekend at Young Critics, I saw some great plays, met some amazing people and learned some invaluable things. Roll on October!

 

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Jack Synnott is a member of Droichead Youth Theatre  in Drogheda, Co.Louth and an NAYD Young Critic for 2016

NAYD Young Critics Announced for 2016

A big thank you to everyone that applied for Young Critics.  This year the number of applications was an even bigger increase on last year’s applicants. We got a record breaking 47 applications for just 16 places.

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NAYD Young Critics 2011 at Project Arts Centre 

We are happy to announce that the Young Critics for 2016 are:

Colm Maye Activate Youth Theatre
Jane Byrne CYT – CYT – Cabinteely Youth Theatre
Savana Bartual Smyth Cork Institute of Technology – CIT
Rita Havlin Donegal Youth Theatre
Meabh Hennelly Dublin Youth Theatre
Jack Synnott Droichead Youth Theatre

Louis Flanagan Droichead Youth Theatre
Pierce McNee Dundalk Youth Theatre
Patrick Joy Footsteps Youth Theatre
Clodagh Healy Free Radicals Youth Theatre
Kate Brady Gonzo Youth Theatre
Emily McGee Kilkenny Youth Theatre
Ryan Finnegan Leitrim Youth Theatre Company Carrigallen (LYTC)
Ciara Lummis Play YT / Fracture Youth Theatre
Mary Condon O’Connor Play YT / Fracture Youth Theatre
Mathew Whitehead Sligo Youth Theatre

The Young Critics will be coming together for the first weekend from April 22-24th.

The first two productions they will be going to see are :

The Plough and The Stars 2016  by Sean O’Casey . Directed by Sean Holmes at the Abbey Theatre.

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Tina’s Idea of Fun by Sean. P. Summers. Directed by Conall Morrison at the Peacock Theatre. 

International theatre academic and Toronto Star theatre critic Dr. Karen Fricker  will work alongside NAYD’s own Alan King to explore the fundamentals of theatre criticism over the coming months.

The Young Critics will be making  vlogs and writing reviews and you can follow their exploits here 

NAYD Young Critics and Arts in Junior Cycle 2013-2016

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.

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NAYD Young Critics 2013. Chaired by Dr. Karen Fricker

 

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.

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Junior Cycle teachers take part in their first ever Young Critics Workshop. March 2014

 

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.