[ 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

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

Ballyturk:a video review by Aifríc Ní Dhochartaigh

In the run up to NAYD’s Young Critics Panel on Oct 5th 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.

Here is a special vlog of Enda Walsh’s Ballyturk. With Ballyturk having it’s press night in London tonight at the National Theatre, we thought this would be a timely post.

Aifríc is a member of NAYD’s Young Critics for 2014

 From left, Mikel Murfi, Enda Walsh , Cillian Murphy and Stephen Rea. Photograph: Cyril Byrne


From left, Mikel Murfi, Enda Walsh , Cillian Murphy and Stephen Rea. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Well Worth Five Minutes Of Your Time

In the run up to NAYD’s Young Critics Panel on Oct 5th 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.

With three weeks to go to the Young Critic’s Panel Andy McLoughlin reviews Five Minutes Later  

 

5 Minutes Later, By Ellen Flynn, directed by Marc Atkinson
Performed by Bob Kelly, Nichola McEvilly, Manus Halligan, and Sophie Jo Wasson
Set and lighting design by Colm McNally
Sound Design by Osgar Dukes
Costume Design by Mary Sheehan
Viewed on August 30th at The Lir
Review by Andy McLoughlin

Ellen Flynn's Five Minutes Later, presented by Sugarglass Theatre Company

Ellen Flynn’s Five Minutes Later, presented by Sugarglass Theatre Company

The plot of Ellen Flynn’s new play is certainly a familiar one: four twenty-something strangers meet at a speed-dating night and become entangled in a strange love quadrangle while struggling with fidelity, friendship and loyalty. Given all the familiar tropes and superficial philosophy associated with these kinds of plays, Flynn’s talent is in resisting those clichés. Rather than presenting us with archetypes and then subverting them, we’re shown complex characters who resist being reduced to archetypes in the first place. There are no good or bad people in these relationships, only ambiguous choices made by flawed people to ambiguous ends. The play attempts to show our collective social network for what it really is: normal people navigating a world that isn’t.

The difficult themes of vanity, objectification and secrecy are captured well by the design elements of the play. The set, which at times takes up the entire width of the already small stage, is comprised of four door-frame-sized two-way mirrors which move through the space on tracks. At the best of times they serve to frame the action of the play, surrounding the characters and forcing them to confront themselves or allowing them to judge each other from behind a reflective screen. Occasionally though, it seems there’s a tendency to manipulate these mirrors just so they don’t go to waste. This endless fluidity disorients and induces fatigue as often as it heightens the drama.

In some cases, the non-stop movement on stage fits nicely into the hectic and sometimes surreal nature of the play. As for the plot itself, things are a little more muddled. The lion’s share of the play is effectively a highlights reel of the four characters’ relationships as they go from strangers to lovers and back again.  As the show’s title suggests, the concept of time is a loose one and we often see these relationships grow and change without any real indication of how much time has passed, which leads to some confusion. The plot is further convoluted by hectic dreamlike interludes and even in the most intimate moments, we’re distracted by the actors manipulating the set around them to change the space.

It’s in returning to the more real, albeit complicated interactions between these four friends/foes/lovers that Atkinson’s talent really shines through. With the help of a great cast of characters and actors (Nichola McEvilly being the MVP as a desperate housewife seeking escape), speed, distance and emotions are all explored in their fullest range to give a dizzying sense of drama in the lives of these characters. Whatever about surreal interludes and unpredictable plot pacing, this is ultimately a play that feels as strange and immediate to us in the audience as it does to those on stage. And that is no small feat.

Andy McLoughlin is a member of Droichead Youth Theatre and a participant on NAYD’s Young Critics Programme 2014

SWING SWUNG INTO ACTION FROM THE FIRST WORD

In the run up to NAYD’s Young Critics Panel on Oct 5th 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, Sophie Quin reviews Swing 

 

Swing by Steve Blount, Peter Daly, Gavin Kostick and Janet Moran, directed by Peter Daly
Performed by Steve Blount and Janet Moran
The Source Arts Centre, Thurles, County Tipperary, performance viewed on 26 June 2014
Review by Sophie Quin

 

Janet Moran and Steve Blount in Swing by Fishamble Theatre Co.

Janet Moran and Steve Blount in Swing by Fishamble Theatre Co.

“Is… Is this swing?”
And so from the first timid and engaging question put to the audience, Swing caught my attention as it danced into a familiar, yet new world. Not being a general admirer of dance shows (I find the lack of dialogue often compromises plot), I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.
In a swing dance class May (Janet Moran) and Joe (Steve Blount) meet for the first time. Their lives have stalled and they can’t decide what to do next. The class offers them an escape from the ordinary, to move on from the past, and possibly to live their lives anew. Drawing on the familiar issues of recession, divorce, emigration, love, changing your mind, and the omnipresent risk of failure, Swing retained a deep-rooted and quintessentially Irish style, as it mixed the serious with the comical and used humour as a possible solution to life’s problems.

Throughout the class we’re introduced to an array of characters: moody dance instructors, terrorised beginners, old lovers, and veteran swing dancers, each bringing their own stories to the stage. The actors swop characters multiple times by yelling “change places,” often at awkward moments; with a gesture, voice or posture they become a different person before your eyes. At times the transitions were so rapid that it appeared that there were far more than two performers onstage. Each character retained their own personality, even if some were slightly stereotypical. For instance the “foreign girl” was definitely foreign, and it was obvious that another character was homosexual from the cliché way they spoke and moved. Yet this was easily carried and probably necessary since there was such a varied range of characters. Blount and Moran interpreted each character with great flair. The direction by Peter Daly ensured the performance was crisp and elegant, but could also incorporate the gut-wrenching awkwardness of an argument taken too far. The show was funny but not tactless: none of the gags were out of context.

Fishamble has once again shown that it is at the forefront of new playwriting in Ireland. Swing is part of the company’s Show in a Bag scheme, in which all props and costumes are required to be kept to a minimum so performances can be scaled up to fill a large venue, or down to fit into a small tightly-squeezed café. This economical design meant, in the case of Swing, that focus was on performance and not an overly distracting set, which consisted of two chairs, a bag, a bicycle helmet, water bottles, a disco ball, and the costumes.
Whether you interpret Swing as an analysis of who and what we are rihgt now in Ireland, or as a jovial comedy about ordinary lives and the beginnings of friendship, it is a play that showcases much that is exciting and innovative in performance today. When the disco ball flashed into life, reflecting across the venue, I too was swept up into this ordinary yet extraordinary world. If you get a chance swing along to see this great and effective piece of contemporary Irish theatre.

 

Sophie Quin is a member of Fracture Youth Theatre in Tipperary and an NAYD Young Critic for 2014

NAYD Young Critics Swing into Summer.

 

Janet Moran and Steve Blount in Swing by Fishamble Theatre Co.

Janet Moran and Steve Blount in Swing by Fishamble Theatre Co.

With the Young Critics firmly established as a hugely popular and beneficial programme, we decided to pilot some new elements to the programme this summer.

Following on from Alan King’s trip to the Theatre Critics of Wales Awards in February we took on some ideas from Guy O’Donnell and are piloting them for 2014.
Guy is the Arts Development Officer for Bridgend Council in South Wales and runs a Young Critics Scheme there.

Over the summer months we are asking the Young Critics to become programmers and select one professional production that they feel they and their fellow youth theatre members might enjoy. With the support of their local Arts Centres and venues, who will offer special youth theatre discounts to shows, the Young Critics will get to see more productions in their home communities.

The Young Critics will then do a short video blog on the production they saw and submit it to NAYD. From here, four of them will be invited to write reviews for the Young Critics Blog.

The intention of this approach is to allow the Young Critics to take their own independent steps of choosing a show for their fellow youth theatre members to see. They can develop their own programming tastes using some of the learning from Karen Fricker and Alan from the first Young Critics weekend.

The uptake and support from the venues have already been really strong.

The New Theatre in Temple Bar are offering all members of Complex Youth Theatre and Cabinteely Youth Theatre special €10 tickets for all productions.

Fishamble Theatre Company’s production of Swing, is touring over the summer months and has proven a popular choice with the Young Critics.

Members of Fracture/ Play Youth Theatre in Tipperary have received a special two for one deal when it plays at the Source Arts Centre in Thurlas on June 26th. There will be a post show discussion facilitated by Young Critic Sophie Quin.

Meanwhile 30 members of Griese and Kildare Youth Theatres will catch Swing thanks to a very special low price youth theatre rate at the Riverbank Arts Centre, in Newbridge on July 11th. Young Critics Emma Gallagher and Kyle Walsh will get to meet the cast of Swing after the show.

The Garage Theatre is home to Monaghan Youth Theatre and already does a lot to support the work of the youth theatre. Again they are hosting Swing and Lisa McPhillips has chosen this as the show for the group to attend.

In Cork the Everyman is extending their special school rate to Activate, Lightbulb and CIT Cork School of Music YT members. Aimee Wallace from Lightbulb has programmed her group to go see God Bless The Child on its Opening Night.

An Grianán Theatre is home to Letterkenny Youth Theatre. They will continue to provide many opportunities for the members to see shows for free or at significantly reduced rates, as does the Droichead Arts Centre in Drogheda, who have also extended that offer to the members of M.A.D Youth Theatre in Dundalk.

The Roscommon Arts Centre has extended another youth theatre rate to the members of Roscommon County Youth Theatre.

The benefits are huge for all involved. The venues will be building new audiences and all the young people will get to see even more quality theatre than usual. We would hope to develop and establish these relationships between venues and our members over the coming years.

The content created on the video blog and reviews will find a home on the Young Critics blog so expect a lot of updates in August and September.

Those venues supporting the Young Critics for 2014 are:

The New Theatre, Dublin
The Everyman, Cork
The Garage Theatre, Monaghan
An Grianán Theatre, Letterkenny
Droichead Arts Centre, Drogheda
The Source Arts Centre, Thurlas
The Riverbank, Newbridge
Roscommon Arts Centre.

We would like to thank all the venue managers and their staff who have helped support this new initiative.

Call Out for The Young Critics Programme 2014

‘Seeing the plays made me more excited about theatre, it made me want to go see more shows and to experiment in the non-acting elements of theatre when I returned to my own youth theatre.  Young Critic 2013

[The Young Critics] has improved my ability to watch theatre in a critical manner and my ability to write reviews. I met lovely people and made lots of new friends.’  Young Critic 2013

 What is The Young Critics Programme?

The Young Critics Programme is now in its incredible eleventh year. One of NAYD’s most popular programmes, 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.

Along the way they will see some incredible shows, make new friends and learn about the art of theatre criticism.

This is a very exciting programme and one where young people are given an opportunity to see quality productions, while developing their critical skills in a safe and encouraging atmosphere. This will allow them to develop their own critical voice and express their views in a confidant and knowledgeable way.

There are only sixteen places available to youth theatre members from affiliated youth theatres around Ireland. If you are in any way interested, we would encourage you to apply.

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The Young Critics will meet in Dublin from Friday April 25th to Sunday 27th for the first time and again in October. Over the two weekends the Young Critics will attend at least four theatre productions, and participate in workshops and discussions with leading international theatre critic and academic, Dr Karen Fricker and Alan King, NAYD Youth Theatre Officer.

The group meet again in October to see further productions, take part in more workshops and participate in a public panel discussion. In between the two residential weekends, the Young Critics will be encouraged and supported to go and see other local productions, write some reviews and contribute to the Young Critics blog.

 

 

How do I apply to take part in Young Critics?

Participation in the programme is free: accommodation, food, theatre tickets and travel costs are covered by NAYD.

It is open to NAYD affiliated youth theatre members who will be aged 16 or over on April 1st 2014.

To be a Young Critic you must be fully available for both weekends.

NAYD will have welfare leaders in place all weekend to ensure the wellbeing and safety of all participants.

If you are interested in the programme, please fill out the application and consent forms fully and return to:

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 by Monday April 7th 2014.

 

Watch some former Young Critics Talk about the Young Critics Programme.

 

Feeling Wicked

Wicked The Musical
Bord Gais Energy Theatre

Review by Deirdre Wray
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This musical was as amazing as it was when I saw it in the Apollo Victoria theatre in London in 2012.

Two amazing actresses, Niki Davis Jones and Emily Tierney played the roles of Galinda and Elpheba. They were both powerful singers and interpreted the roles very well in their own ways.
The dragon was just as good and the costumes and dancing were also spectacular.

It is a real family musical, which shows the background to the story of the Wizard of Oz and what really happens and who is evil after all.

If you haven’t seen it yet I would recommend it hugely. Although tickets can be pricey because it’s the Bord Gais you may find some cheap seats left but even if you did pay top price it is well worth it.

5 stars from my sisters and me and I’m sure from others as well.

Performance reviewed on Jan 3rd and posted Feb 12th  2014
Deirdre Wray was a participant on NAYD Young Critics 2013

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