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.



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.

An NAYD Young Critics review of My Second Self by Derek Masterson

In the run up to NAYD’s Young Critics Panel on Sunday Oct 4th as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival, we will be publishing a series of reviews from the Young Critics.

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

First up, Olwyn Bell reviews My Second Self 
by Derek Masterson

My Second Self by Derek Masterson

No Tears Productions

Civic Theatre, Tallaght

With the successful marriage referendum a few months in the past and “Yes” posters nowhere to be found, some might forget how LGBTQ rights only recently started to become a reality in Ireland. My Second Self shows us the two different sides of homosexuality in our country and reminds us how we still have a long way to go for equality.

The play starts with Leyton telling us about himself through a monologue: he’s gay and that’s fine with him. Thommas Kane Byrne’s character is confident — maybe a bit too stereotypical! His apartment is filled with pictures of gay icons like Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe which sets the tone as light-hearted. He is a 23-year-old man and the whole world is his stage. He is the embodiment of the “gay best friend” and maybe he uses this to hide his softer side.

Then we meet Paul (Barry Roe), who is seemingly the opposite of Leyton — a well-put together man in a three-piece suit, drinking coffee in a humble cafe. But he is like Leyton in one way: he’s gay. He meets Leyton just after attending his son’s funeral. It is revealed that Paul’s son committed suicide after coming out as gay. His son’s worst nightmare came true when his mother reacted badly to the news. Paul’s reaction is guilt as he lost his son to his own shame of being gay and not being as strong as his son to admit it.

One half of the stage is dedicated to Leyton’s apartment while the other is the cafe. This staging really worked as we see the metaphorical connection of Modern and Old Ireland. When Leyton and Paul meet at centre stage, older and younger generations come together towards a deeper understanding of homosexuality.

This play has a message of understanding: Ireland is changing and homosexuality is becoming a part of everyday life. People like Leyton are able to love who they want without much prejudice, while Paul had to hide his sexuality away. But this doesn’t mean that Leyton hasn’t got other problems to face. We see his feelings in a dream sequence in which both Leyton and Paul communicate their inner thoughts. The real Leyton, a broken man who needs his father’s love, contradicts the upbeat party animal we met at the start. Paul has hidden problems as well; we see his shame about being “a gay man in a straight situation” and about not being there for his son. This scene allows for deep character development.

My Second Self did an excellent job in showing the evolution of homosexuality in Ireland. We are given the older vision through Paul and the contemporary side with Leyton. Even in modern times, we see that the two men have lost something because of their sexuality: Leyton lost his father while Paul lost his son. This play has tragic elements with a mixture of comedy to make us realise that prejudice and fear around homosexuality are still a real thing.

Olwyn Bell is a member of Tallaght Youth Theatre and an NAYD Young Critic for 2015.

Join us on Oct 4th at 1pm to see the Young Critics in Project Cube as part of Dublin Theatre Festival. 

The Civic Theatre Tallaght kindly supported this event.