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.

A Summer of Shows with The Shadow Of A Gunman

It’s been a fabulously productive summer for this year’s Young Critics.

As part of our summer initiative, and with the support of their local arts centres and venues, they have been seeing productions the length and breath of the country.

They selected a show and  planned a theatre trip for their youth theatre friends. Their own curatorial skills were being put to the test as they selected a show that would hold the interest of their peers.

The range of productions they have managed to see has been truly impressive. There was lots of New Irish Writing on display with many shows touring to local arts centres. The One Man Show is a staple of the touring circuits and there was no shortage of these on offer.

Young Critics Summer Shows

Several Young Critics went to see Mikel Murfi’s sublime The Man In The Woman’s Shoes, and Pat Kinevane’s equally sublime Underneath.

Michael Hillard Mulcahy’s After Sarah Miles, set in Dingle, was attend by Dusigh’s Young Critic from Tralee.

The two Young Critics from Footsteps Youth Theatre attended Seamus Moran’s Have a Heart at the Friars Gate Theatre Kilmallock, Co.Limerick.

There were also plenty of full productions on offer including An Grianan’s touring production of Frank Pig Says Hello by Pat McCabe and Martin Lynch’s My English Tongue, My Irish Heart.

There were World Premieres aplenty with Co. Carlow Youth Theatre members being treated to Jockey by Willfredd Theatre Co at Visual, Carlow.

Before Monsters Were Made by Ross Dungan was another World Premiere at Project Arts Centre as was My Second Self at the Civic Theatre and The Ballad of Charlie & Cate at the Cork Midsummer Festival.

Our Young Critic from Donegal Youth Theatre attended Annie The Musical at The Balor Theatre.

Finally Niamh Murphy, one of our Young Critics from County Wexford Youth Theatre attended Sean O’Casey’s The Shadow of A Gunman at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.

Here is her very fine video blog review of the production.

Have you seen the show?

Would you agree with Niamh?

Heartbreak House – A Review by NAYD’S Young Critics

In the run up to NAYD’s Young Critics Panel on Oct 5th as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival, we continue to publish a series of reviews from the Young Critics.

Over the summer months,we asked the Young Critics to attend some shows on their own. We asked them to make a short vlog review of their experience. We then asked a selection of them to turn these into written reviews. Dr. Karen Fricker offered some editorial advice.

So with less than a week to go to the Young Critic’s Panel, Catriona Quigley reviews Heartbreak House 

Heartbreak House by George Bernard Shaw, directed by Roisin McBrinn

Performed by Lisa Dwyer Hogg, Nick Dunning, Kathy Kiera Clarke, Brendan Conroy, Marcus Lamb, Mark Lambert, Aislin McGuckin, Chris McHallem, Don Wycherley, and Barbara Brennan

Sets by Alyson Cummins, lighting by Paul Keogan, Costumes by Niamh Lunny, music and sound design by Philip Stewart

Viewed on August 21st 2014 at the Abbey Theatre

Reviewed by Caitriona Quigley

Heartbreak House: the name seems to imply anything but good-naturedness. At the same time, though, period dramas bring guilty pleasure for many, particularly now that Downton Abbey is so popular. And I’ve never studied George Bernard Shaw at all. Given all this, it was hard to know what to expect from the Abbey’s production – but I found myself sitting transfixed.

Shaw set his scene in 1914, just before the outbreak of the First World War, ensuring a plenitude of satirical jabs at the expense of the affluent upper classes who confined themselves to their trivial problems as the world changed around them.

 

Mark Lambert (Captain Shotover), Aislín McGuckin (Lady Ariadne Utterword), Kathy Kiera Clarke (Hesione Hushabye), Lisa Dwyer Hogg (Ellie Dunn) and Nick Dunning (Hector Hushabye) in Heartbreak House by Bernard Shaw, directed by Róisín McBrinn. Photo by Sarah Doyle.

Mark Lambert (Captain Shotover), Aislín McGuckin (Lady Ariadne Utterword), Kathy Kiera Clarke (Hesione Hushabye), Lisa Dwyer Hogg (Ellie Dunn) and Nick Dunning (Hector Hushabye) in Heartbreak House by Bernard Shaw, directed by Róisín McBrinn. Photo by Sarah Doyle.

The play concerns a colourful cast of characters who congregate for a country weekend at the dwelling of the surly yet outspoken Captain Shotover, played with appropriate gusto by Mark Lambert. Shotover has been estranged from his younger daughter Ariadne (Aislin McGuckin) for 23 years — yet she seethes when both the Captain and her eccentric sister Hesione (Kathy Keira Clarke) fail to recognize her. Hesione, meanwhile, has invited her friend, Ellie Dunn (the excellent Lisa Dwyer Hogg) to stay for the weekend. When Ellie arrives with her father and her fiancé in tow, she reveals that she’s had her head turned by a mysterious man, who as it transpires, may be a little too familiar to some of the guests…

I admired how Shaw deconstructs various archetypes often found in period dramas, such as the naïve young maiden, the crotchety patriarch, and the well-meaning best friend. The play’s central theme is deceit, and no character ended up to be as they appeared at the play’s outset. The characters and the audience are simultaneously strung along by this deceit, which paves the way for a literally explosive conclusion!

 

Aislín McGuckin (Lady Ariadne Utterword), Nick Dunning (Hector Hushabye) and Mark Lambert (Captain Shotover) in Heartbreak House by Bernard Shaw, directed by Róisín McBrinn. Photo by Sarah Doyle.

Aislín McGuckin (Lady Ariadne Utterword), Nick Dunning (Hector Hushabye) and Mark Lambert (Captain Shotover) in Heartbreak House by Bernard Shaw, directed by Róisín McBrinn. Photo by Sarah Doyle.

Heartbreak House, is, at times, an incredibly complex production to follow. I can’t count how many times my mum and I exchanged expressions of confusion about how the plot swerved in many directions, often with no prior warning. Yet, the dazzling set by Alyson Cummins, the actors’ impeccable comic timing and exquisite costumes by Niamh Lunny ensure that this production is, at its best, a genuinely enticing piece of theatre.

In conclusion, we found that Shaw’s razor-sharp wit and jovial banter made for insightful and pleasant viewing. Very highly recommended!

Catriona Quigley is a member of M.A.D Youth Theatre, Dundalk and an NAYD Young Critic for 2014

The Risen People – Review

Saoirse Anton from Laois Youth Theatre went to a recent performance of The Risen People at the Abbey Theatre. This is her review.

I, like many others, studied the 1913 Strike and Lockout in school, I know the history of it, the facts, the figure, but never before has it been more alive in my mind than as I watched the Abbey Theatre’s production of  The Risen People by James Plunkett, directed by Jimmy Fay.

A moving and engaging piece of theatre, The Risen People brings the harsh reality of the lockout to life, reminds us of the day to day difficulties of the families involved and draws the audience into the world of Dublin in 1913.

Every aspect of the production added to the atmosphere and drew the audience further into the story. The incredible musical numbers, choreographed by Colin Dunne with music by Conor Linehan are, in my opinion, some of the best I have ever seen. Some serve to convey the raw suffering of the people, some show the dissatisfaction that sparked the rising and some, such as  The Internationale  serve to rouse the spirits of the audience and give them a taste of the pride and drive that led the workers to stand up for their rights.

The shadowy, cold lighting (Paul Keogan)  and sparse set (Alyson Cummins)  are beautifully designed to give the audience a sense of the poverty and hardship felt by the workers. These, when combined with the excellent acting performances, particularly by the female characters, played by Hilda Fay, Charlotte McCurry and Kate Stanley Brennan, make for a truly breathtaking production.

L-R Phelim Drew (Mr. Hennessy), Joe Hanley (Rashers Tierney), Keith Hanna (Pat), Kate Stanley Brennan (Lily Maxwell), Charlotte McCurry (Annie), Ian Lloyd Anderson (Fitzpatrick), Hilda Fay (Mrs. Hennessy), Lloyd Cooney (Joe), Simon Boyle (Keever / RIC Man), Conor Linehan (Piano / Ensemble) and Niwel Tsumbu (Guitar / Ensemble) in The Risen People by James Plunkett, adapted by Jimmy Fay from a version by Jim Sheridan. Photography by Ros Kavanagh.

L-R Phelim Drew (Mr. Hennessy), Joe Hanley (Rashers Tierney), Keith Hanna (Pat), Kate Stanley Brennan (Lily Maxwell), Charlotte McCurry (Annie), Ian Lloyd Anderson (Fitzpatrick), Hilda Fay (Mrs. Hennessy), Lloyd Cooney (Joe), Simon Boyle (Keever / RIC Man), Conor Linehan (Piano / Ensemble) and Niwel Tsumbu (Guitar / Ensemble) in The Risen People by James Plunkett, adapted by Jimmy Fay from a version by Jim Sheridan. Photography by Ros Kavanagh.

The cherry on top, which really brings the production into the here and now, is the Noble Call in which each night, a well known figure is invited to give their opinions on the production and share the message they gained from it through words, art or music.

I can promise you that from the striking opening sequence through the stirring story, as the houses are emptied and the pawn shop is filled, to the final line, your eyes will be riveted to the stage and you will feel every emotion of every character.

You will live the lockout.

The Risen People runs until Feb 1st 2014. For more information and booking details please visit The Abbey Theatre Website 

Put that in your notebook- I,Malvolio

I, Malvolio  written and performed by Tim Crouch
Peacock Theatre, Dublin
9 March 2013
Review by Michael Mc Grath

As the 19 members of our group (16 young critics and the facilitators Alan, Karen, and Diane [they’re also critics – we’re all critics!]) piled through the door of the Abbey’s Peacock Theatre, our expectant gazes were met with an accusing glower. It came from a figure dressed in excrement-stained pajamas dotted with flies, and bright yellow stockings, standing in a sparsely decorated set.

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Tim Crouch in I, Malvolio
Marcus Yam for The New York Times

Variations of these actions; our engagement and Malvolio’s judging looks were repeated over and over, and we were also soon met with his accusing words. The routine was denied the chance to stagnate by the increasing brutality of our relationship with one another, culminating in the arrival of a noose. An hour later we left our seats feeling a bit puzzled after Malvolio’s subtly-delivered “revenge,” a surprise that we are promised from the start, a punishment for our casual sins. Puzzled and intimidated but also intrigued and impressed. This I won’t spoil for you on the off chance that you are ever given the chance to see Tim Crouch’s brilliant I, Malvolio.
This is a one-man play told from the perspective of Shakespeare’s Malvolio, locked in his prison after the curtains have drawn on Twelfth Night. He is eager to have his say as he peers down on his squirming audience, and often orders us up to the stage to stand with him under the spotlight, literally and figuratively, in this clever performance.

“I am not mad,” Malvolio insists to his audience, whom he regards with contempt but who he believes need to respect his sanity. “Put that in your notebook” he spits at us after noticing our hasty scribbling. This is a taste of Crouch’s witty improvisation which dots I, Malvolio and provokes the most laughs in response to the play.

Soon after “mounting the horse of the script” — as the wonderfully strange half-Malvolio, half-Crouch puts it — we are told exactly how Malvolio intends this “well, whatever ‘this’ is” to go: he will first make us laugh and then attack us for laughing. This is the root of I, Malvolio, which brings the human cruelty inherent in comedy out in the open, where it both causes and silences our laughter with constantly changing tides of glee and guilt.

© Michael Mc Grath 2013