Young Critics is one of Youth Theatre Ireland’s most popular and innovative programmes. Over a six-month period, participants will see some incredible shows, make new friends and learn about the art of theatre criticism.
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.
During the programme, young people are given an opportunity to see quality productions while developing their critical skills under the mentorship of international theatre critic and academic, Dr. Karen Fricker, and Youth Theatre Ireland’s own Alan King.
This year the programme will include a particular focus on engaging with different forms of criticism. These will include writing reviews and developing blogs, making podcasts, creating video blogs, and much more.
Young critics has helped make new friends, learn to express my opinions, gave me insight to lots of different types of theatre and gave me the tools to voice my critiques in a number of ways. – Young Critic 2018
WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE YOUNG CRITICS?
The Young Critics will first meet in Dublin from Friday April 12th to Sunday April 14th and again from October 11th – 13th. Over the two weekends the Young Critics will attend at least four theatre productions, and participate in workshops and discussions, facilitated by the mentors.
In October, the group will meet up in Dublin again to see further productions, take part in more workshops and participate in a public panel event as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival.
In between the two residential weekends, the Young Critics will have the opportunity to see other productions and make critical responses through the use of digital technology.
The Young Critics will be supported by our professional mentors through workshops, tutorials and online support forums.
HOW DO I APPLY TO TAKE PART IN YOUNG CRITICS?
Participation in the programme is totally free: accommodation, meals, theatre tickets and travel costs are covered by Youth Theatre Ireland.
It is open to youth theatre members who will be aged 16 – 20 by April 1st 2019. We are looking for young people who are comfortable meeting new people, working in a highly focused way and are willing to share their thoughts and opinions with each other. A love of theatre and an enthusiasm for engaging with digital tools are a bonus.
We will provide you with all the skills and tools needed to take part fully in the programme. To be a Young Critic you must be fully available for both weekends. You must also be available to take part in online discussions and see some theatre shows yourself between the two residentials.
Youth Theatre Ireland will have welfare leaders in place on both weekends to ensure the wellbeing and safety of all participants.
If you are interested in the programme, please download the application form,fill out fully and return by post only to:
Young Critics Programme, Youth Theatre Ireland, 7, North Great George’s Street, Dublin 1 by Thursday March 14th by 5pm.
If you need further information please contact Youth Theatre Ireland:
Office phone: 01 878 1301 or Email Alan King
In order to offer individual advice and guidance on developing each young person’s critical skills, places on the programme are limited to a maximum of 16.
Please visit the Young Critics Resource Suite for lots of hints and tips on running a Young Critics Programme and creating critical responses.
It’s been a busy few months since the Young Critics last met in April as they have been honing their critical skills while seeing shows up and down the country.
With the Dublin Theatre Festival looming over the horizon, we reflect on some of the productions the Young Critics saw over the summer.
To whet your appetite for festival season, Young Critic Pippa Molony gives us this epic review of Ulysses at the Abbey Theatre
Elsewhere our Young Critics saw Pat Kinevane’s Silent, The Aspirations of Daise Morrow at the Black Box Theatre Galway, Asking for It and Wet Paint at the Everyman Cork, Mamma Mia on the West End, A Doll’s House at the Roscommon Arts Centre and the Deadly Wizard of Oz in Dundalk.
We will be announcing the Young Critics picks for the Dublin Theatre Festival very soon along with details of the Panel discussion itself.
Two weeks ago, Youth Theatre members took their first steps towards becoming Young Critics. Over the weekend of the 6th to the 8th of April, 16 youth theatre members met for the first time and bonded over a love of critical review.
After viewing two plays which sat at two very different ends of the performance art spectrum – The Unmanageable Sisters being a lighthearted comedy with a dark, fiery underbelly and Tryst being a heavy trip of stretched moral ambiguity and rapid-fire accusations, twists and reveals. But these plays were conjoined in topical themes – such as relationships and abortion – that left the budding critics fair ground to compare and discuss.
Discussion ran rampant, with healthy engagement of differing views and opinions fueling debate and insightful commentary. Despite the group being divided over which play they preferred, this never truly divided the group, but actually helped build critical thinking, while also teaching how to hold ground and justify an opinion – something very important for a critic.
The social backdrop a program like Young Critics sets itself upon proved no obstacle, with participants going from first greetings to Shakespearean murder in a couple of hours. Everything grew from here, especially back at the hostel. Jenga tested trust the first night, but nothing compares to what came the second – Monopoly, a tale of cheating, robbery and extortion. Some riddles were thrown about, and tunes banged out on a guitar.
This, paired with the program pushing for further exploration of the digital space, could lead to collaborative theatre reviews in the form of video & podcast. An exciting new frontier awaits the program, and this young critic cannot wait to see where this goes.
William McCabe is a member of Griese Youth Theatre in Balitore, Co.Kildare and is a Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critic for 2018.
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.
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 will be returning to the Peacock Stage in January and Molly Foley from Activate Youth Theatre has this review from its October showing.
This new play, written and directed by Iseult Golden and David Horan is in many ways quite simple. The set is realistic and the plot is a straightforward narrative, with only three actors playing the five characters established in the piece. Despite this, Class is one of the most engaging, enjoyable and thematically-rich plays I’ve seen in a long time.
The story is that of two working-class parents, Brian (Stephen Jones) and Donna (Sarah Morris), who are called in to their son, Jayden’s school to talk with his middle-class teacher, Ray McCafferty (Will O’Connell). The parent-teacher meeting that unfolds is broken up with scenes of Mr. McCafferty’s interactions with Jayden and another student in his class during which Jones and Morris seamlessly take on the roles of the two children. These relationships develop and change as these characters deal with internal resentments and face a variety of issues that arise through the play.
The play manages do deal with issues of social class and notions of status subtly without hammering in an established opinion or belief. Instead, it is a perfect example of ‘show don’t tell’, starting a conversation through real, flawed and relatable characters, each with valid motivations, opinions and outlooks. It does not paint characters as ‘good or ‘bad’ and doesn’t depict anyone as in the right or the wrong. Those decisions are left in the hands of the audience and I believe that by the end of the 75 minutes, most viewers will have had at least one moment of sympathy and/or identification with each character in the play.
Class feels like a very down to earth play that knows what it is setting out to do and does it well without any self-importance. Although the plot develops in very unexpected and extreme ways, it never feels like it is being dramatic for drama’s sake.
At its heart this show is an exercise in empathy, not asking for audiences to choose or change sides, but just to listen and perhaps to briefly find themselves in the shoes of others.
I would consider this show a must see. With a sharp, well written script and stunning performances, this show is as hilarious as it is heartbreaking. Five stars.
Molly Foley is a member of Activate Youth Theatre and a Youth Theatre Ireland Young Critic for 2017.
Class returns to the Abbey Theatre for a limited run from January 24th 2018.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Invitation to a Journey
Reviewed on 21 July 2016
€22 million – the figure Eileen Gray’s Dragon Chair sold for in 2009. That’s all most people know about her. This production uncovers a great deal more than this fact, exploring the personal encounters in Gray’s life and sharing the accomplishments of this Irish artist with the Irish public.
Invitation to a Journey explores Gray’s life in vivid detail, from her colourful relationship with Damia, her French lover (portrayed powerfully by Kate Brennan), to her innovative career as an architect and designer. It is a co-production of Fishamble: The New Play Company, CoisCéim Dance Theatre, the contemporary music group Crash Ensemble and Galway International Arts Festival, and is written and performed in a groundbreaking way. The roles of the three dancers, three actors, and four musicians are melded to the extent that in some scenes it is difficult to tell them apart, especially in one scene where Damia and the dancers fight over a chair, all essentially becoming dancers.
The musicians wear costumes suited to the era and have their hair crimped in a ‘20s style, which connects them to the dancers in particular, as they have the same hairstyle. (In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that my mother Deirdre O’Leary was involved in this production as one of the musicians).
The show opens with the three dancers offering their interpretation of Gray’s architecture through movement. Half a dozen nine-foot-tall doors on either side of the stage are then flung open by the remaining cast members, which segues into the auction of the dragon chair. As the cast bid for the chair, Ingrid Craigie — the actor playing Eileen Gray — sits in a chair behind them and becomes fleetingly visible as the bidders exit the stage and the lights dim. Her presence becomes much stronger as the show progresses, although at times that presence is overshadowed by the sheer amount of things going on onstage.
Halfway through, the show enacts the construction of e.1027, the iconic house Gray designed for herself and her lover the Romanian architect Jean Badovici. String outlining the foundations is taped to the stage by one of the dancers as Gray struts around the stage carrying blueprints. Only shortly afterwards, Le Corbusier (played by Ronan Leahy) paints lewd murals on the pristine walls of e.1027, nude.
In an era when most women were married off, Eileen Gray was openly bisexual, almost insanely driven, and creative. She was modern when it wasn’t mainstream and this show echoes that crazy creative determination that possessed her. While this show ambitiously melds the roles of dancer, actor and musician, it would be interesting to see what the difference in dynamic would be if the musicians had more dialogue with the rest of the cast and if Gray was more involved in scenes with the dancers. The mixture of concrete and abstract information presented through the different art forms gave a strong impression of someone’s personality. It seemed to be trying to express an inner creativity and drive that I now associate with Eileen Gray.
Ciara is an NAYD Young Critic for 2016 and a member of Fracture/ Play Youth Theatre in Tipperary
The Young Critics Panel will take part on Oct 9th at 1pm at Project Cube. Chaired by Dr. Karen Fricker