Alan King, NAYD’s Youth Theatre Officer, has been keeping the Young Critics up to speed with his theatre-going via the Young Critics Facebook page. He is kindly sharing his thoughts on a week in youth theatre with us for this month’s blog entry.
Well it has be a fantastic few weeks in the world of youth theatre. Most prominent amongst these were NAYD’S National Youth Theatre’s production of A Dream Play at the Peacock Theatre and Waterford Youth Arts 25 th birthday celebrations in various locations around Waterford.
Directed by acclaimed director Jimmy Fay, the NYT featured 16 young actors from across the NAYD membership in August Strindberg’s classic, in a newer version by Caryl Churchill. Speaking as an NAYD staffer I would of course have a very particular bias towards this production so I will keep my opinion as objective as I can. I had no direct involvement with this production so I took my seat along with all the other interested audience members on opening night, what followed was a dazzling display of stagecraft, ensemble playing, commitment and wondrous production values.
A Dream Play sees Agnes, the daughter of the god Indra, visit earth and see the lives of humanity played out against a surreal backdrop. Each of the cast inhabited their roles with conviction and poise that made the performance a joy to watch. One could really see that this cast had an ownership of the material and that director and his artistic and production team had worked them very hard to deliver this level of performance. I found the play difficult to understand, I don’t think I was alone, but that didn’t matter as the visual and choreographed spectacle on display kept me rapt for its hour and twenty minutes running time. As an advertisement of what a youth theatre production can be, given the right talent and budget, it was a huge statement of the potential of youth theatre.
DARK OF THE MOON
As the centre piece of it’s 25th birthday celebrations Waterford Youth Arts (WYA) chose the 1942 American play the Dark of the Moon by Howard Richardson and William Berney which it staged at Garter Lane theatre in late August. Directed by Waterford native and internationally recognized writer and director Jim Nolan this too was a very challenging piece for it’s young actors. Set in the Appalachian mountains the story told of a ill fated love between a mortal called Barbara Allen and a witch boy named John against the backdrop of small town mentality and religious fervor. While some actors were clearly playing characters much older then themselves they were all very comfortable in their roles and those strange accents. Again this cast had a great ownership of their parts and the ensemble was extremely strong in some very large group scenes. Nicely staged with great choral work and choreography this too was a great advertisement of what a great youth theatre show can be. All of the key production members and some of the older cast members were ex-W Y A members which in itself is a true mark of the legacy of great youth theatre. The production values were very high and a packed house ensured that this great production had the audience it deserved.
It was interesting to note that in both of these production the actors could be clearly heard at all times. It is very often the case with youth theatre shows that diction, volume and clarity sometimes get lost in getting the show on. It is worth taking note that it’s doesn’t matter how good you think a show is but if you can’t be heard it takes away an awful lot from an audiences enjoyment of the show.
Also as part of the celebrations W YA staged ‘This Ain’t No Fairy Tale’ in an outdoor promenade performance in a free event at the People’s Park in Waterford City. Co written by Megan Stokes( who also appeared in Dark of The Moon) and Young Critics member Martina Collender this utilized the very young members of W Y A to perform for the 4-10 age group. Directed by ex WYA member Shauna Farrell, this was a murder mystery involving some well-known characters from children’s culture. Imagine if Shrek was written by Agatha Christie and you get the idea. This was really great fun to watch and to be part of. A huge cast of 30 young children inhabited their roles with belief and conviction. Although they were a little hard to hear at times- they are little kids acting outdoors after all, it was a very enjoyable show that kept the audience very entertained. Special mention must be given to W Y A and their writing programme to encourage Megan and Martina to write a piece that was performed publicly. I would hope that the two young writers continue to write for the stage and produce more work in the future.
In addition to these two plays W Y A ran a huge variety of workshops, readings and dance performances as part of the celebrations. It was encouraging to see so many people participating in youth arts both as audiences and players.
On Friday night, The Collected Works of Jim Daly was launched at Greyfriars Municipal Art Gallery. Jim was a stalwart of the Waterford Arts scene for many years who sadly passed away early last January. He was a founder member of Red Kettle Theatre Company, a fantastic lighting designer and in more recent years had written several plays for WYA and younger audiences.
I had the pleasure of knowing and working with Jim on several occasions and this volume of his poems, plays and remembrances is a fitting testament to this giant of a man.
Visit www.waterfordyoutharts.com for more news and some great images.
MOAF is the Members’ One Act Festival, which is an annual part of Dublin Youth Theatre’s Calendar.
Staged in DYT’s premises this offers a safe environment for members to write, direct and produce their own material to be performed by its members. I myself performed in the second ever MOAF’s way back in 1992, which shows you how long this festival has been running at DYT.
I remember when a member could pick up any play they liked and decide to do it. I was in a Harold Pinter play- which even when your 19, you still haven’t a clue what’s going on, so it’s great to see members writing their own work.
Interestingly one of the shows on offer last week was called 1992 written and I’m not sure if he was influenced by the very large poster for Gerry Stembridge’s play of the same name that adorns DYT’s hallway or that he knew I was in the MAOF’s back in 1992 but either way 1992 clearly had some significance for Stephen. In this double bill Neil Douglas and
Gemma Collins directed “Get off the phone I want to use the internet”.
Both of these short pieces were collages on memory and fears and desires and featured some very interesting staging techniques and performance styles. Music and sound played a big part of these productions and the influence of DYT’s current and past Artistic Directors could clearly be seen in the work.
The second weeks of the MAOF are on now with two new shows,”Does anybody ever” by Sophie Meehan and “Afternoon tea” by Ken Byrne and Katherine Murphy running this week. Get your tickets now as this small venue sells out fast.
So overall it has be a really exciting two weeks of just youth theatre productions. It is very encouraging to see such strong and varied work taking place and it is great to see the artistic output of our yt’s can be rightly held against what’s going on in the professional theatre