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

Town is Dead – A Podcast Review by NAYD Young Critic Méabh Hennelly

Way back in June, NAYD Young Critic Méabh Hennelly took a visit to the Peacock Theatre to view Town is Dead by Philip McMahon.

In this podcast Méabh is joined by her friend Isabel Horner to cast their critical eye on Town is Dead.

CREDITS

Méabh is an NAYD Young Critic for 2016 and a member of Dublin Youth Theatre. 

Méabh was also a participant in NAYD’S Watching the NationOnStage and this review is also posted on Watching the NationOnStage Blog.

Wishful Beginnings Reviewed by NAYD Young Critic Emily McGee

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.

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Wishful Beginnings . Photo Credit: http://verkproduksjoner.no/

Wishful Beginnings

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.

 

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Wishful Beginnings. Photo Credit: http://verkproduksjoner.no/

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

Project Arts Centre  as part of Dublin Theatre Festival

Co-production by Black Box TeaterBIT-Teatergarasjen and Teaterhuset Avant Garden.

Emily McGee was a Young Critic for 2016 and a member of Kilkenny Youth Theatre 

[ Title of Review]- An NAYD Young Critic review of [Title of Show] by Bríd Nolan

Over the last few weeks in the run up to NAYD’s Young Critics Panel, we’ve published a series of reviews from the Young Critics. With the Young Critics arriving today we publish our final review. 

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.

Here Bríd Nolan reviews [Title of Show] by Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell.

[Title of Show] by Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell, directed by Angeline Milne
Performed by Andy Carberry, Adam Tyrell, Ciara Ivie, Sarah Jane Williams, and Mark Cox
Viewed on 13t August 2014 at the New Theatre, Dublin. Reviewed by Bríd Nolan

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Going to see [Title of Show] is like watching a rehearsal for a play you’ve failed to get a part in. The cast members greet the audience laconically as they stroll on stage, and the fourth wall swiftly becomes an object of derision, one the cast members occasionally snipe at throughout the play.

[Title of Show] revolves around the lives and work of four struggling actors and a keyboardist. Two of the characters, Hunter and Jeff (based on the writer Hunter Bell and composer Jeff Bowen) decide to write a musical about their attempts to write a musical for the 2004 New York Musical Theatre Festival.

The effect is of a blurred, devised timeline of skits spliced by messages left on the voicemail at Hunter and Jeff’s apartment. The musical spans the time between the moment the characters decide the play must be written and shortly after the show’s premiere. The storyline relies heavily on self-parody to keep the audience entertained and in this lies both its appeal and its downfall. While the ironic humour sets the play firmly within the its characters’ lives and keeps things from becoming too abstract, the jokes become a little stale in the second half. It’s a pretty realistic, authentic look at human relationships, albeit one that spurns sincerity.

The set of four chairs, some bookshelves and a keyboard effectively evokes the setting of a modest New York apartment, with a background of exposed brick walls. It makes for a sparse and unforgiving staging which deflects little attention from the actors themselves. This contrasts with a typically lavish Broadway set and budget. This minimalistic approach is both in an attempt to draw attention to the production’s origins, and a reflection of the ethos of the producing group, Ill Advised Theatre, which was set up last year to bring contemporary musicals to Dublin on relatively shoestring budgets. They attempt to keep ticket prices low, and are partially financed by crowdfunding. Given its subject matter and origins, [Title of Show] was thus an apt choice for Ill Advised’s first full scale production. [Title of Show] also continues the New Theatre’s tradition of presenting innovative and unusual productions.

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Musically, the cast is strong, especially Sarah Jane Williams as Heidi. The belivabilty of all the actors, especially Jeff (Andy Carberry), and Hunter (Adam Tyrell) is absolute. We are always aware of the dynamic between the pair, as their old friendship is threatened by the pressures of ambition and show business, but at the same time this is never overstated.

The gags occasionally grate and wear thin especially in the second half when the suspense dissolves as the eventual payoff (Broadway!) is reached. The meta-theatrical aspect of the show is intriguing but didn’t manage to hold the audience’s attention throughout. Nonetheless the production’s biggest accomplishment lies the timing and balance of its parody; it relies on a peculiarly self-aware humour and narrowly skirts the risk of of becoming self indulgent.

Bríd Nolan is a member of Cabinteely Youth Theatre and an NAYD Young Critic for 2014