Dear Ireland – The Rock, Revisited

From April 28th – May 1st 2020 the Abbey Theatre broadcast fifty short monologues as an immediate response to COVID-19 and the first lockdown in Ireland.

The brief was simple, What should Ireland write on a postcard to itself? 

A whole year later, our newest group of Young Critics had the unique opportunity to revisit one of the pieces and watch it in isolation. Thanks to the generosity of the creators, the group had a private viewing of The Rock, written by Phillip McMahon and performed by Caoilfhionn Dunne.

We have a trio of short reviews from Anna Lynch,Evie Howard and Sarah Carolan for you to enjoy.

Image : Abbey Theatre

First up, Anna Lynch shares this review

The Rock by Phillip McMahon, part of the Dear Ireland project by the Abbey Theatre. Rating: ★★★★

The Rock poses to Ireland some uncomfortable questions, mainly how far have we as a society really come in terms of LGBTQ+ acceptance?

Written by Phillip McMahon and part of Abbey Theatre’s Dear Ireland project, The Rock is presented to us in the form of a video diary filmed by the only character. It’s recorded during a Covid-19 lockdown as a way of documenting the run-up to her wedding and to have as a keepsake for her future, but presently non-existent kids. We are privy to the troubles and turmoil the relationship between the character and her partner Carol have endured, see how internalised homophobia is still present in modern day Ireland and learn how important communication and co-operation are in relationships.

Caoilfhionn Dunne portrays the role of the angsty other half perfectly, capturing not only the essence of the lockdown madness, but also portraying the pressure of being a lesbian in Ireland. Taking into consideration the fact that the entire monologue is self-recorded and has no director, one has to applaud how smoothly the video runs.

The entire performance is intimate and personal, creating the illusion that the viewers are part of their lives. The script was outstanding, full of the Irish humour we all know and love. In particular, McMahon’s consistent references to rocks was extraordinarily clever when describing the feelings and thoughts of the character. It makes us think about how Irish views on the LGBTQ+ community and how indiscreet homophobia, even from loved ones, can have a profound impact on lives.

At times the monologue was perhaps spoken too fast, making it difficult to understand. However, overall, the short performance was excellent. This is definitely one to watch if you’re in the mood for some food for thought.

Anna is a member of Backstage Youth Theatre, Longford and a Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critic for 2021.

Evie Howard writes:

In this witty and realistic account of lockdown life in Ireland, Phillip McMahon tells an engaging and thought provoking story of a Dublin woman struggling with tradition, family, and identity.
 
The Rock was written as part of the Dear Ireland project, an initiative run by the Abbey Theatre in order to keep theatre alive during a nationwide lockdown. The idea is simple; 50 pieces written by 50 playwrights which were then self-taped by 50 actors. All the pieces were written with one theme in mind; ‘what should Ireland write on a postcard to itself?’
 
This theme is one that Phillip McMahon pulls off particularly successfully, raising a number of talking points about Irish society. In The Rock, we watch as the main character (played by Caoilfhionn Dunne) speaks directly into the camera in a way that feels very vulnerable and intimate. The piece is formatted as a video diary and we learn that she has proposed to her girlfriend and since revoked her proposal, telling a story of self-doubt and relationship troubles relatable to many. She also tells of problems with family, as she struggles to rebuild bridges with her homophobic mother. McMahon manages to pack a lot of information into the short few minutes of this piece of theatre while still keeping the dialogue natural, and Dunne makes a great performance, keeping consistent energy throughout.
 
As for negatives, of which there are few, the dialogue can be difficult to understand at times, especially for those unfamiliar with the Dublin accent, and the background is bland and can be distracting, but these issues are minor, and given The Rock was self-taped under unique circumstances, it can be forgiven. Overall, well worth the watch and I would recommend seeking it out should the opportunity to view it arise again.

Evie is a member of WACT Youth Theatre in County Wexford and a Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critic for 2021.

Caoilfhionn Dunne Photo Credit: Ste Murray

Finally Sarah writes this review from April 30th.

The Rock- online performance for Dear Ireland- Abby theatre- written by Phillip McMahon- performed by Caoilfhionn Dunne

The rock is an insight into the stone cold society that we live in, with deep rooted beliefs that affect us more than we may think. A worthwhile watch that you, for sure, won’t take for granted.

The main character (played by Caoilfhionn Dunne) breaks the fourth wall, talking directly to the camera about her experience of lockdown through the format of a video diary. She tells us about the societal pressure she feels in everyday life and gives us an insight to how she makes decisions that affect her. She proposed to her girlfriend, but questioned what marriage meant to her. She tells us about the strain on the relationship with her mother, who has never fully accepted her sexuality.

Overall it was an extremely well put together piece. The subtlety of Caoilfionn’s performance was impeccable, to the point where it felt natural, as if she was talking to us through the diary. I also think the online medium was used to its fullest potential. Being able to adapt a story to the circumstances we find ourselves in, and not feel out of place, is a huge skill.

The design was simple and didn’t distract from the piece, but I wonder if a more cluttered backdrop could have reflected on the obstacles the characters have overcome.

With that said, it carries an extremely important message, making you examine the importance of “social norms” in today’s society.

Sarah Carolan is a member of Explore Youth Theatre, Leixlip, Co.Kildare and a Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critic for 2021.

Hallowe’en Horror Show Review By Aoife Murphy and Dylan Gallagher

In the latest review from our Young Critics, we venture again online and review our peers at Giant Wolf Youth Theatre. Working in tandem, our pair of critics log onto Discord for a seasonal online offering.

The horrific murder of a normal family, a decaying body at the bottom of a lake, the disappearance of a brother that cannot be solved, this radio play has it all.

Although Discord is a website primarily used for online gaming, Giant Wolf Youth Theatre in Tallaght, Dublin have given the platform their own unique stamp by using it to perform ‘Hallowe’en Horror Show’ on the eve of the spookiest day of the year at 7pm. This live entertainment was a free, non-ticketed event and contains six pieces created a few weeks before airing by its members. However, we will just be giving a slight taster into this great act to give our readers a sense of the show. The audience are able to post their live reactions in a separate text channel as the performance occurs and actors are also able to communicate with the listeners, answering questions while not disturbing the show.

Written and performed by Young Critics’ own Heather Jones, the introductory piece The Waiting Game is set in a bedroom. Usually it’s a place that suggests comfort and security. Any feeling of that is instantly taken from participants who tune in with how surreal this performance is.

It centralises on the death of the character’s family from a creature described as having “natural sickly white skin” and “tainted crimson all over its arms, legs and neck”.  The murder is witnessed by the only character in the show and we’re given great insight into the emotions she feels, “My whole body was numb sitting in the silence”. She hides in her bedroom while recounting the story and it ends on a cliff-hanger, leaving the audience to their imaginations. Jones’ acting skills came across the medium phenomenally and caused everyone witnessing this masterpiece heart’s to race, visualising the gruesome scene.

The second piece is named Picturesque and is made by James Chatham, Trudy Nolan, and Kai Foley, performed by the writers as well as Ella Kinsella.

We are transported back fifteen years where we meet Quinn Smith. The show is based around the interviewing of Quinn on the 7th of September, 2010 at 3pm, and gradually we learn about the events which unfolded and lead to his rehabilitation. We are presented with two different versions of the event and are left conflicted on who to believe.

At the beginning of the story, Quinn conveys himself as a loving husband and father to young Jack and Alice, describing the details of that night with loving narration. But with the twist ending, we’re left bewildered, wondering if this is all an act and if he really is the person he acts out to be. After multiple forms of evidence line up with Quinn’s recounting are presented from the interviewers attempting to convict him, what comes next is something nobody could predict. A bone chilling sinister laugh, challenging Joaquin Phoenix’s ‘Joker’ is heard echoing through the device’s speakers and leaves you holding your breath in anticipation. This piece is confusing at the beginning and listeners are unsure where the story is heading, but ends up being very well thought out and keeps the audience engaged with its constant plot twists.

The final act is titled Thicker than Water and is created from the mind of Charley Ashe, also performed by Ashe as well as Trudy Nolan and James Chatham.

Our last journey tells the comedic but equally frightening tale of three characters Kevin, Katie and Ciara. These seventeen year olds are subjected to an interview by Kevin for his school project that results in both girls retelling the perplexing events that happened to them both in a Wicklow forest. This show is reminiscent to the Irish film The Hole In The Ground directed by Lee Cronin, but takes that plot to a new level with the sheer adrenaline experienced when hearing the scary situations these girls end up in. It has a great sense of place with strong Irish accents and its careful placements of sound effects help the overall feeling of an outdoor setting.

Hallowe’en Horror Show by Giant Wolf Youth Theatre is an extremely immersive experience and a surreal insight into the world of horror and all things terrifying. The wonderful narrator Cal has such a relaxing and pleasant voice. It’s extremely soothing between each piece, which just makes it all the more disturbing when we’re thrown back into these six worlds of mayhem. For only having a short and limited time to prepare, everyone involved in this production worked very well to produce a wonderful event, getting their audience in the mood to fully celebrate Halloween the next day.

Show reviewed on Oct 30th, and review submitted Nov 8th

Aoife is a member of Explore Youth Theatre, Leixlip, Co.Kildare and Dylan is a member of Leitrim Youth Theatre Company Carrick On Shannon. Both are Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critics for 2020.

To Be A Machine (Version 1.0) Reviewed by Young Critics Aoife Murphy & Áindréas Fallon Verbruggen

As the dust settles on this year’s Dublin Theatre Festival, two of our Young Critics give us their respective takes of Dead Centre’s To Be A Machine (Version 1.0)

In this episode of The Prop Room, Áindréas Fallon Verbruggen take look at To Be A Machine. 

This online play created by DeadCentre and Mark O’Connell for the Dublin Theatre Festival, explores the mechanics of humanity and if we are really as different as the machines we use. 

You can listen here: https://anchor.fm/aindreas-fallon-verbruggen/episodes/Episode-2-To-Be-A-Machine-eks624

Here Aoife Murphy gives us her take on To Be A Machine (Version 1.0)

Laughing in the face of level 3 restrictions, Dublin Theatre Festival held their head up high as they re-imagined what we know as theatre and delivered a superb socially distanced performance.

Developed and supported by the Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin, ‘To Be a Machine (Version 1.0)’ by Dead Centre and Mark O’Connell, is adapted from the Wellcome Prize-winning book by Mark and explores the idea of theatre without the barrier of a body. Staring critically acclaimed actor Jack Gleeson, playing himself, he actively attempts to not be a machine while the audience watches the live performance from Project Arts Centre in the comfort of their beds.

What is a forty five minute performance on the exploration of technological possibility and the limits of live performance, feels like a mere second. I found myself craving for more bewilderment when it ended. With its plot line hard to follow, I’m still confused as to what I witnessed exactly. But I think that’s what makes this piece that bit even more interesting. It doesn’t have one solid interpretation, so audiences can take what they want from it.

The slightly eerie atmosphere and wonderful cinematography makes gaining a sense of a personal connection to Jack seamlessly easy as he looks straight into the camera, into us, and rarely breaks eye contact. His soft voice is calming and Jack deals with some minor technical issues very professionally.

The only thing that took me out of the immersive experience is seeing my fellow Young Critic’s faces uploaded on a tablet screen, placed where we would have been sitting if we were physically at the theatre. It’s strange to witness; however it gave me some joy recognising people I know in the sea of digital profiles.

This trippy theatre performance will mess with your mind, challenging what you think you know with the exploration of the philosophical concept of what is existence. In a world constantly looking for answers to big questions, I feel that if this play were to give a solid response, it would suggest that there’s always an absolute to the trivial parts of life.

A 5/5 star performance rating.

Reviewed by Aoife Murphy Oct 3rd 2020.

You can listen to an audio version of this review here:

https://anchor.fm/alan1102/embed/episodes/To-Be-A-Machine-Version-1-0-Reviewed-by-Young-Critic-Aoife-Murphy-emcgso

Aoife is a member of Explore Youth Theatre in Leixlip Co, Kildare and Áindréas is a member of Mr. Sands Youth Theatre,Bray, Co.Wicklow. Both are Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critics for 2020.

Young Critics Panel 2020

Youth Theatre Ireland returned to Dublin Theatre Festival for the 17th iteration of Young Critics.

This year has been like no other, with a Young Critics programme to match. Between June and October, eighteen young people from across Ireland honed their critical skills from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

They have been guided on their journey of critical discovery by our expert facilitators: Alan King in Dublin and theatre critic Dr. Karen Fricker in Toronto.

Over the course of the Dublin Theatre Festival, the Young Critics engaged with several programmed events and presented their critical responses at this special online panel. 

Young Critics have been working with digital tools for criticism for the last number of years and the 2020 panel was an opportunity to showcase this like never before.

This is an edited version of the Young Critics Panel discussion that took place on Sunday, Oct 11th at 4pm.

Young Critics Panel 2020

Our panel of Young Critics discuss:

To Be A Machine (Version 1.0) by Dead Centre

The Great Hunger by Abbey Theatre in partnership with IMMA

The Party to End All Parties by ANU Productions & Dublin Theatre Festival

Chaired by Dr. Karen Fricker Hosted by Youth Theatre Ireland at the Dublin Theatre Festival 2020 https://dublintheatrefestival.ie/prog…

This Youth Theatre Ireland programme is funded by the Arts Council and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

Come join the Young Critics at Dublin Theatre Festival 2020

This year has been like no other, with a Young Critics programme to match.

Since June, eighteen young people from across Ireland have been honing their critical skills from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

Over the course of the Dublin Theatre Festival, the Young Critics will engage with several programmed events and will present their critical responses at this special online panel.

Join us online on Sunday Oct 11th at 4pm for a very special online event.

The Young Critics have been guided on their journey of critical discovery by our expert facilitators: Alan King in Dublin and theatre critic Dr. Karen Fricker in Toronto.

They have been working with digital tools for criticism for the last number of years and we hope that 2020 will showcase this like never before.

To book your place in our special limited capacity Zoom Room panel, please contact Alan King 

We will be live streaming the event to a wider audience though our social media channels.

Please follow us on YouTube and Facebook and Dublin Theatre Festvial here for more updates.

An Audio review of Much Ado about Nothing by Killian Reid.

Our latest review sees a return to Rough Magic Theatre Company’s production of Much Ado About Nothing. It toured extensively throughout Ireland in 2019, so it’s no surprise to see it being reviewed again by our Young Critics.

This time, Killian from Longford offers us this audio review.

Rough Magic Theatre Company’s Much Ado About Nothing. Photo Credit: Ste Murray

https://anchor.fm/alan1102/embed/episodes/Much-Ado-About-Nothing—A-Review-by-Killian-Reid-eh316e

Check out an earlier review by Young Critic Máiréad here for comparison.

Killian is a member he is member of Backstage Youth Theatre and a Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critic for 2020.

Killian has been a member of Backstage Youth Theatre (BYT) for four years. Since joining BYT he has participated in many productions, including an annual panto and summer productions. In these productions Killian has worked alongside professional directors as an actor, musician, and stage manager. He enjoys all aspects of theatre and loves the fun of the yearly panto. He has taken part in movement and improvisation workshops and has most recently been selected as a member of the Backstage Theatre Young Critics project. Killian is excited to learn more about how theatre works, how it is created and how is analysed by working as a part of the Young Critics Programme. He is excited to meet more theatre loving people throughout his journey and cannot wait to discover how different people are impacted by theatre.

Cosy at Firkin Crane – Reviewed by Sinéad Barry

Our Young Critics Online kicks off this Friday June 19th for our first ever online session. We’ll be meeting our 19 Young Critics for the very first time and starting our critical journey together.

For this week’s entry, Sinéad Barry from Lightbulb Youth Theatre in Co. recalls a production from the Cork Midsummer Festival, this time last year.

I attended the production ‘Cosy’ by Kaite O’Reilly in Firkin Crane in Cork last year. The production was about three generations of women as they tackle the topics of youth, ageing and death. Rose, the grandmother, wishes to die with dignity, and her idea of this is to take her own life in a way that she sees fit. Her three daughters and granddaughter arrive at the family home, where the story picks up. There are discussions of what makes a good death, with some slightly unorthodox methods of coming to a conclusion.

The Cast of Gaitkrash’s ‘Cosy’. Cork Midsummer Festival 2019.

 I really liked the grandmother’s character, Rose. At her core, she’s a sad and depressed woman who wants to be free from her ageing, failing body. She has an intense, emotional monologue in the final scene, where she reveals why she badly wants to take her own life.

I didn’t particularly enjoy a scene in which Rose and her Welsh friend attempt to ‘practice’ a method of suicide on Rose’s eldest daughter. I felt that the scene was unrealistic and came out of nowhere. Up until then, Rose didn’t seem like the type of person to so much as pretend to harm one of her own.

One aspect of the production I really enjoyed was the prominence of Rose’s antique chair. It was present in almost all scenes, and during Rose’s final monologue, she sat in the tall, imposing chair which emphasised just how small Rose was in that period of her life. Overall, I think it was a brilliant, if not macabre, production.

Sinéad Barry is a member of Lightbulb Youth Theatre, in Mallow, Co. Cork and a Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critic for 2020.

Sinéad has been a member of Lightbulb Youth theatre for six years and has been a part of five shows. Since joining, she has participated in several Midsummer Meet Ups, as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival, and has done various workshops related to this, such as Young Critics workshops. She participated in a script reading as part of an environmental awareness project in the UCC theatre building. Sinéad wants to gain a deeper understanding of the work that goes into making a production, learn to give constructive criticism, and meet new people.

Every Day I Wake Up Hopeful – Reviewed by Ellie O’Connell

Ellie has been a member of Activate Youth Theatre for 3 years and has participated in a variety of workshops and productions in this time. She also has interest videography. She is thrilled to be taking part in the Young Critics Programme 2020, and can’t wait to meet new people and learn all about critiquing theatre!

The Glass Menagerie & Medea – Two Classic Gate Theatre productions. Reviewed by Young Critics Katie Lacey Curtis & Marc Cheevers

Continuing our series of reviews by this year’s Young Critics, we turn our attention to Dublin’s Gate Theatre. Known for its repertoire of classics, the 2019/ 2020 season saw productions of Tennesse Williams’ 1944 The Glass Menagerie alongside a new version of Medea by Kate Mulvany & Anna Louise Sarks after Euripides.

 

GATE-FACADE

Gate

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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Katie Lacey Curtis from Making Waves Youth Theatre, Greystones, Co Wicklow, reviews Medea.

Recently I saw Medea at the Gate Theatre and it has quickly set itself as one of my favourite performances.

I was unsure of the play at the beginning as it was very static as the boys ‘played dead’ for about five minutes, but I was awoken when they began to play again, their energy filling the room as they ran around the stage as they played. Medea herself only appeared for around 20 minutes of the play in total, each time appearing more frantic and distraught than the last, which greatly added to the suspense as we were not the wiser as to when she would murder them.

The two boys were the perfect embodiment of the two brothers and whilst they fought we saw not long after how much they cared for each other and really got on. The boys singing ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ brought a tear to my and many other’s eyes as we knew they would not live to be adults.

The use of set and lights also worked amazingly. As the boys passed in Medea’s arms the lights dimmed leaving a plethora of ‘stars’ behind them.

However, I did find that following Medea’s final monologue the play ended very abruptly, leaving little time for the room to breath and her last words to ring out.

Katie Lacey Curtis is a member of Making Waves Youth Theatre and a Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critic for 2020.

Katie has been a member of Making Waves Youth Theatre for 3 years since its founding in 2017. During these years she has taken part in both of their 2 shows and taken part in many workshops focusing on improvisation, movement and script work, as well as writing. She is looking forward to seeing a large range of shows, learning more about criticism in theatre and then getting the opportunity to properly critique them.

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Marc Cheevers from Explore Youth Theatre, Leixlip, Co.Kildare turns his eye to The Glass Menagerie.

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The Glass Menagerie by Tennesse Williams

Last year, my youth theatre viewed a play called The Glass Menagerie in the Gate Theatre. It was a very well made production with each scene not only capturing my interest but also my curiosity. Its concept was simple. A family in 1940s America but the sister was crippled, so the family had to look out for her. The accents were quite solid, sometimes their natural accents would slip through but other than that, the acting was quite good. The costumes well suited the period and there was an excellent use of music. In the end, the family has torn apart and I cannot deny that I didn’t shed a tear. Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable piece and I would see it again.

Marc Cheevers is a member of Explore Youth Theatre and a Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critic for 2020.

Marc has been a member of Explore Youth Theatre for 1 1/2 years. He has been involved in a number of productions and improvised pieces. He is looking forward to viewing more productions and improving his critique skills.