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

Shakespeare’s Globe Taming Of The Shrew. Reviewed by NAYD Young Critic Pierce McNee

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.

The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, directed by Caroline Byrne

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Come join Pierce and all our Young Critics on October 9th at 1pm at Project Arts Centre.  They will be critiquing three productions as part of Dublin Theatre Festival 2016.