Young Critics is one of Youth Theatre Ireland’s most popular and innovative programmes. Over a six-month period, participants will see some incredible shows, make new friends and learn about the art of theatre criticism.
It is open to youth theatre members who are interested in watching theatre, discovering how and why theatre is made, and learning how to critically discuss, analyse, and review theatre.
During the programme, young people are given an opportunity to see quality productions while developing their critical skills under the mentorship of international theatre critic and academic, Dr. Karen Fricker, and Youth Theatre Ireland’s own Alan King.
This year the programme will include a particular focus on engaging with different forms of criticism. These will include writing reviews and developing blogs, making podcasts, creating video blogs, and much more.
Young critics has helped make new friends, learn to express my opinions, gave me insight to lots of different types of theatre and gave me the tools to voice my critiques in a number of ways. – Young Critic 2018
WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE YOUNG CRITICS?
The Young Critics will first meet in Dublin from Friday April 12th to Sunday April 14th and again from October 11th – 13th. Over the two weekends the Young Critics will attend at least four theatre productions, and participate in workshops and discussions, facilitated by the mentors.
In October, the group will meet up in Dublin again to see further productions, take part in more workshops and participate in a public panel event as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival.
In between the two residential weekends, the Young Critics will have the opportunity to see other productions and make critical responses through the use of digital technology.
The Young Critics will be supported by our professional mentors through workshops, tutorials and online support forums.
HOW DO I APPLY TO TAKE PART IN YOUNG CRITICS?
Participation in the programme is totally free: accommodation, meals, theatre tickets and travel costs are covered by Youth Theatre Ireland.
It is open to youth theatre members who will be aged 16 – 20 by April 1st 2019. We are looking for young people who are comfortable meeting new people, working in a highly focused way and are willing to share their thoughts and opinions with each other. A love of theatre and an enthusiasm for engaging with digital tools are a bonus.
We will provide you with all the skills and tools needed to take part fully in the programme. To be a Young Critic you must be fully available for both weekends. You must also be available to take part in online discussions and see some theatre shows yourself between the two residentials.
Youth Theatre Ireland will have welfare leaders in place on both weekends to ensure the wellbeing and safety of all participants.
If you are interested in the programme, please download the application form,fill out fully and return by post only to:
Young Critics Programme, Youth Theatre Ireland, 7, North Great George’s Street, Dublin 1 by Thursday March 14th by 5pm.
If you need further information please contact Youth Theatre Ireland:
Office phone: 01 878 1301 or Email Alan King
In order to offer individual advice and guidance on developing each young person’s critical skills, places on the programme are limited to a maximum of 16.
Please visit the Young Critics Resource Suite for lots of hints and tips on running a Young Critics Programme and creating critical responses.
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.
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.
Class will be returning to the Peacock Stage in January and Molly Foley from Activate Youth Theatre has this review from its October showing.
This new play, written and directed by Iseult Golden and David Horan is in many ways quite simple. The set is realistic and the plot is a straightforward narrative, with only three actors playing the five characters established in the piece. Despite this, Class is one of the most engaging, enjoyable and thematically-rich plays I’ve seen in a long time.
The story is that of two working-class parents, Brian (Stephen Jones) and Donna (Sarah Morris), who are called in to their son, Jayden’s school to talk with his middle-class teacher, Ray McCafferty (Will O’Connell). The parent-teacher meeting that unfolds is broken up with scenes of Mr. McCafferty’s interactions with Jayden and another student in his class during which Jones and Morris seamlessly take on the roles of the two children. These relationships develop and change as these characters deal with internal resentments and face a variety of issues that arise through the play.
The play manages do deal with issues of social class and notions of status subtly without hammering in an established opinion or belief. Instead, it is a perfect example of ‘show don’t tell’, starting a conversation through real, flawed and relatable characters, each with valid motivations, opinions and outlooks. It does not paint characters as ‘good or ‘bad’ and doesn’t depict anyone as in the right or the wrong. Those decisions are left in the hands of the audience and I believe that by the end of the 75 minutes, most viewers will have had at least one moment of sympathy and/or identification with each character in the play.
Class feels like a very down to earth play that knows what it is setting out to do and does it well without any self-importance. Although the plot develops in very unexpected and extreme ways, it never feels like it is being dramatic for drama’s sake.
At its heart this show is an exercise in empathy, not asking for audiences to choose or change sides, but just to listen and perhaps to briefly find themselves in the shoes of others.
I would consider this show a must see. With a sharp, well written script and stunning performances, this show is as hilarious as it is heartbreaking. Five stars.
Molly Foley is a member of Activate Youth Theatre and a Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critic for 2017.
Class returns to the Abbey Theatre for a limited run from January 24th 2018.
The Young Critics Panel discussion took place at Project Cube on Sunday Oct 8th as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival.
Listen to full audio here are our panelists discuss three shows in front of a live audience. Chaired by Helen Meany.
Our Panelists were:
The Second Violinist
Tadhg Carey – Celbridge Youth Drama, Co. Kildare
Molly Foley – Activate Youth Theatre, Cork
Cian McGrath – Free Radicals Youth Theatre, Tralee, Co. Kerry
Aaron Dobson – Leitrim Youth Theatre Company, Carrigallen
David Quinn – Monaghan Youth Theatre
Sean McManus – Dublin Youth Theatre
Lara Coady – Explore Youth Theatre, Leixlip, Co.Kildare
Caoimhe Kenny – Roscommon County Youth Theatre
Luke Murphy – Lightbulb Youth Theatre, Mallow, Co.Cork
Vanessa Byrne – Mayo Youth Theatre
Kiara Toal – Monaghan Youth Theatre
Ella McGill – Complex Youth Theatre, Dublin
With the Dublin Theatre Festival starting today we are gearing up for Youth Theatre Ireland’s Young Critics to return once again to the DTF.
Since April, the Young Critics have been honing their critical skills through workshops and online discussion with the support of professional theatre critics and facilitators. They have also been seeing lots of theatre, collaborating with a group of Scottish Young Critics and creating their own criticism in familiar and unusual forms…
The Young Critics, representing youth theatre from all over Ireland, come together from Oct 6th – 8th, to see a number of shows, and take part in the Young Critics Panel on Sunday Oct 8th.
The three productions the Young Critics are going to see are:
With Young Critics representing Kerry, Kildare, Cork, Leitrim,Dublin, Monaghan, Mayo and Roscommon there are workshops, lively discussions and the Young Critics Panel itself. Here the Young Critics will get the opportunity to voice their considerable opinion on the work of the Dublin Theatre Festival.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
The NAYD Young Critics came to Dublin from the 7th – 9th of October for the Dublin Theatre Festival. They attend three productions as part of the Festival. Here Young Critic Emily McGee reviews Verk Produksjoner’s Wishful Beginnings at Project Arts Centre.
Wishful Beginnings: undoubtedly a show with the power to start the revolution that our world today needs most.
Upon entering the theatre of the Project Arts Centre on the 7th of October 2016, the audience suddenly, with or without realising, became immersed in the concept that Verk Produksjoner placed before us. The first thing that you can’t help but notice is the towering plywood wall reaching from the floor upwards, seemingly with no end. This wall was placed at the front of the stage, leaving the actors with a stage approximately no more than two metres in width. Seemingly random costume and prop items lined the outer aisles, where the actors waited to begin.
Between the towering wall of the set, and being entirely surrounded by five actors in various stages of curious costumes, to an extent, the audience couldn’t help but feel somewhat enclosed within the space. This made a very bold and effective addition to the performance as it really aided in exposing the concept of the piece.
Wishful Beginnings is not your traditional piece of theatre, but that’s precisely what I loved most about it. It was more of a conceptual, contemporary, abstract piece of theatre. It took an in-depth look at our world and our society at this present moment in time, and explored through means of improvisation and symbolic or metaphorical scenes, what our future will look like if we continue as we are.
Verk Produksjoner touch on topics such as; fashion and popular culture, mental health and self-harm, industrialisation, LGBTQ+ rights, and animal cruelty. These topics were approached in a rather artful way by using metaphors and symbolism, truly advocating the “show, don’t tell” technique. However, as this technique was so well put to use that, on the surface, it almost seemed as though none of these topics were covered. It was only when the symbolism (ranging from the use of costume, prop, script, and lighting tools) became fully understood, did these topics, or “social issues” and the concept of the piece, become the plot.
The acting from all of the actors was to a very high standard. It was very natural and credible. Espen Klouman Hoiner, in one scene in particular, gave an outstanding, powerful and moving performance portraying a painful death. The performances overall were very impressive, especially so when taking into account that parts of the show were improvised. Despite this, the show flowed seamlessly, the improvised scenes becoming almost indistinguishable from the rehearsed, adding to the authenticity of the entire production.
Overall, Wishful Beginnings was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It was truly a powerful and moving artwork. However, as enjoyable and powerful as I found it to be, I understand that this show is not suited to everybody, as it may be difficult for some to fully grasp the concept, and therefore, the “plot” of the piece. Wishful Beginnings is most definitely a show that I’m glad not to have missed.
Cast and Creative Team:
With and by Fredrik Hannestad, Saila Hyttinen, Tilo Hahn, Signe Becker, Solveig Laland Mohn, Håkon Mathias Vassvik, Per Platou, Anders Mossling, Espen Klouman Høiner, Pernille Mogensen, Camilla Eeg-Tverbakk, Jon Refsdal Moe, Agnes Gry
Emily McGee was a Young Critic for 2016 and a member of Kilkenny Youth Theatre
In the latest in our series of Young Critics reviews, Pierce McNee from Dundalk Youth Theatre traveled to London to see The Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare’s Globe.
Cast: Aoife Duffin, Amy Conroy, Louis Dempsey, Imogen Doel, Colm Gormley, Aaron Heffernan, Genevieve Hulme-Beaman, Raymond Keane, Gary Lilburn, Edward MacLiam and Helen Norton
Performed at Shakespeare’s Globe; reviewed on Monday, 18th July 2016
Set against the backdrop of Dublin 1916, this is a classic play with an alternative twist, featuring an all-Irish cast. This choice of setting — one hundred years after the events that sparked Ireland’s drive towards independence — makes the staging of this production extremely significant. Katherine (Aoife Duffin) appears on the stage at the start of play and sings, passionately, an Irish ballad written by Morna Regan (dramaturg and lyricist) especially for the production. This firmly establishes the 1916 setting and showcases Duffin as a standout performer and a force to be reckoned with.
The Taming of the Shrew tells the story of two sisters, Katherine and Bianca. Bianca is intensely keen on being married off to a handsome suitor. Katherine has no ambitions to become attached to a man. There is one problem: Bianca cannot marry before Katherine, a.k.a. the shrew, is herself paired off.
Going in, I was rather sceptical as to whether or not the production would cater for only an Irish audience, but it does not overly enforce the 1916 theme, which only becomes apparent on a few occasions. For example, a small fraction of the history is played out in the lyrics of Katherine’s two ballads. This make the theme subtly present throughout the performance but the production is kept grounded overall in the original story.
Caroline Byrne’s production is full of side-splitting antics whilst still exposing the serious and sometimes poignant aspects of the play. The misogynistic elements are portrayed with the earnest tone they deserve. The comedic facet is aided in particular by Aaron Heffernan as Lucentio, with his incredible physical comedy and natural wittiness.
Other notable performances include Edward MacLiam as Petruchio, who offers a truly gritty portrayal of the character. He brings an amazing sense of tension with Katherine and this really keeps the audience on the edge of their seats for the intense scenes between them. Helen Norton as Grumio plays her character with great jocularity but also sincerity in the more sombre scenes.
The set, designed by Chiara Stephenson, starts with the traditional Globe stage design with its balcony and pillars. A large black structure is built into the opening at the upstage centre of the stage. This opens up at various points to reveal a staircase. At certain moments during the first half, the stage becomes a 1916 classroom as a prodigious abacus and an anatomical skeleton hurtle onto the stage. A pit of dirty water also appears at the downstage centre of the stage in which Katherine stands while singing one of her ballads.
The costumes, also in Stephenson’s more than capable hands, are eminently satisfactory and greatly fitting to the production. Many of the costumes are 1916-inspired with the women’s pieces heavily influenced by the Gibson Girl look. This also introduces the theme of women’s rights one hundred years ago and also in today’s society. The final speech, delivered by Katherine, allows us to reflect on how much has changed in terms of women’s rights since 1916, when women were so poorly treated.
Pierce is an NAYD Young Critic for 2016 and a member of Dundalk Youth Theatre in Co. Louth.