Fern Kealy talks about her Young Critics Experience with Youth Theatre Ireland

Fern Kealy is one of Youth Theatre Ireland’s Young Critics for 2019.

Fern recalls an action-packed first weekend spent with fellow Young Critics in Dublin from April 12-14th.

Fern Kealy  is a member of Kilkenny Youth Theatre 

Our Young Critics 2019 are:

Kevin Aylward- Limerick Youth Theatre

Maeve Bartley – Co.Limerick Youth Theatre

Clodagh Boyce- Dublin Youth Theatre

Ruth Corrigan – Mayo Youth Theatre

Susie Dooley – County Carlow Youth Theatre

Adam Dwyer – County Carlow Youth Theatre

Leah Farrell – Backstage Youth Theatre, Longford

Jesse Flynn – Dublin Youth Theatre

Fern Kealy – Kilkenny Youth Theatre 

Seán Loughrey – Droichead Youth Theatre, Drogheda, Co.Louth

Jeanette Michalopoulou – Sligo Youth Theatre

Sinéad Mooney – Kildare Youth Theatre

Aisling O’Leary –Act Out Youth Theatre, Navan, Co.Meath

Grace Sheehan – Activate Youth Theatre, Cork

Holly Roynane –Act Out Youth Theatre, Navan, Co.Meath

Oisín Tiernan – WACT Youth Theatre, Wexford

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.

CLASS, Production Image

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.

CLASS, Production Image

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.


Aaron Dobson is a member of Leitrim Youth Theatre Company, Carrigallen and a Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critic for 2017.

[ 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


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.


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