The Fall of the Second Republic – A Review by Ruairí Phelan

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

So instead of bringing our group to Dublin for their first weekend, we will be running a selection of their initial reviews.

These reviews were submitted as part of their Young Critics application. As such, they represent the first steps on their Young Critics journey. We hope you enjoy them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leo Varadkar might agree.

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

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

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

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

Youth Theatre Ireland Announce ‘Young Critics Online’

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

Youth Theatre Ireland Announce ‘Young Critics Online’

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Not open to current or former Young Critics.

Introducing  Youth Theatre Ireland’s Young Critics 2020

The response to Youth Theatre Ireland’s call out for Young Critics this year was phenomenal. We received 45 applications from youth theatres all across the country. The standard of application was exceptionally high and we were lucky to be able to select 16 young people with a broad range of youth theatre experiences.

 

We are delighted to announce our cohort of Young Critics for 2020.

They are:

Sinead Barry, Lightbulb Youth Theatre, Mallow, Co. Cork.

Cathal Brace, Griese Youth Theatre, Co. Kildare.

Marc Cheevers, Explore Youth Theatre, Co. Kildare.

Sarah Cooney McCann, M.A.D. Youth Theatre, Dundalk, Co. Louth.

Emma Corrigan, Monaghan Youth Theatre.

Harry Eaves, Mr. Sands Youth Theatre, Bray, Co. Wicklow.

Dylan Gallagher, Leitrim Youth Theatre Company Carrick On Shannon.

Heather Jones, Giant Wolf Youth Theatre, Tallaght, Dublin.

Katie Lacey- Curtis, Making Waves Youth Theatre, Greystones, Co. Wicklow

Caitlyn Morrissey, Co. Wexford Youth Theatre.

Ellie O’Connell, Activate Youth Theatre, Cork.

Lórcan O’Shea, Kildare Youth Theatre. 

Ruairí Phelan, Dublin Youth Theatre.

Mairead Phelan, Free Radicals Youth Theatre, Tralee, Co. Kerry.

Killian Reid, Backstage Youth Theatre, Longford

Kai Ryan, Griese Youth Theatre, Co. Kildare.

We’re especially delighted to welcome members from three of our most recently affiliated youth theatres; Mr. Sands, Giant Wolf and Making Waves Youth Theatres, who will have members participating on Young Critics for the very first time.

In light of the current health emergency with COVID19, we’ve had to suspend our annual first meet up of the Young Critics in April. We hope to bring the group together later in the summer and then back again for the Young Critics Panel in October as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival.

We’d like to thank all the young people who applied, and all the youth theatres who supported their applications.

In the meantime, we will be introducing you to our young critics and publishing a selection of the critical responses across the Young Critics blog.

First up we have Heather Jones from Giant Wolf Youth Theatre based at the Civic Theatre in Tallaght. You can read her very insightful review of Howie The Rookie here on the Young Critics Blog.

Podcast- Young Critics Panel Discussion 2019

The 2019 Young Critics met on Sunday Oct 13th at Project Arts Centre, Dublin, to discuss three shows as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival.

Listen to the full panel discussion here:

 

 

 

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Panel One. L-R, Sean Loughrey, Grace Sheehan, Clodagh Boyce, Aisling O’Leary

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Panel Two, Kevin Alyward, Fern Kealy, Maebh Bartley, Adam Dwyer & Óisin Tiernan

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Panel Three, Ruth Corrigan, Jessie Flynn, Sinead Mooney, Jeanette Michalopoulou & Susie Murphy Dooley

Young Critics 2019- Applications Now Closed

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?

Applications are now closed.

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.

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. 

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 Class of Its Own by Molly Foley

During the Dublin Theatre Festival, the Young Critics  paid a visit to the New Theatre to see a performance of Class by David Horan and Iseult Golden.

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.

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Stephen Jones and Sarah Morris in Class. Photo Credit: Ros Kavanagh

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.

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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.

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Molly Foley, Activate Youth Theatre

Class returns to the Abbey Theatre for a limited run from January 24th 2018.

Young Critics Panel Discussion at Dublin Theatre Festival 2017 (Full Audio)

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

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Young Critics Panelists for 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

 

Class 

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Young Critics Panelists for Class

David Quinn – Monaghan Youth Theatre 

Sean McManus – Dublin Youth Theatre 

Lara Coady – Explore Youth Theatre, Leixlip, Co.Kildare 

Caoimhe Kenny – Roscommon County Youth Theatre

 

Hamnet

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Young Critics Panelists for Hamnet

Luke Murphy – Lightbulb Youth Theatre, Mallow, Co.Cork

Vanessa Byrne – Mayo Youth Theatre 

Kiara Toal – Monaghan Youth Theatre 

Ella McGill – Complex Youth Theatre, Dublin

 

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Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critics at Dublin Theatre Festival 2017

Youth Theatre Ireland’s Young Critics Set For Dublin Theatre Festival

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.

 

Join us Oct 8th at the Project Arts Centre, Dublin at 1pm. This year’s panel will be chaired by Helen Meany.