Young Critics: First Contact
This year’s Young Critics had their first meeting a couple of weeks ago. Luke Casserly from Backstage Youth Theatre Longford, shares the experience:
Our journey started on Friday evening, where we all gathered at various points around the G.P.O in Dublin City Centre. Everybody was scattered around the building, almost like pieces of a jigsaw scattered on the floor. Little did we know, this jigsaw would soon be assembled and would present itself in the form of a beautiful picture. We eventually introduced ourselves to one another when Alan King, our NAYD Leader and Young Critics coordinator showed up to meet us.
From there, we got a bus to the Marino Institute of Education where we would be staying for the two nights. Mirjana and Diane were our welfare leaders for the weekend. They were both extremely nice and we all got along with them.
We had our first workshop on Friday evening when we arrived at Marino Institute. We were all slightly “train and bus-lagged” but we got through it nevertheless. It was Alan who gave us the workshop, he did some warm-up exercises with us and that got us all energized and ready for action. Alan then divided us into groups and we discussed important questions like, “What does a critic do?” and “What is the job of a critic?” The workshop was really fun and enjoyable. It was the perfect start to the weekend.
Marino was a really nice place to stay. We would be sharing our bedrooms with one other person. I was sharing with Aaron from Co. Roscommon Youth Theatre. There was also a common room with couches and a television where we had the opportunity to socialize and get to know everybody better.
The next day, we had an early start (8am if I recall.) After breakfast we had our second workshop of the weekend. This time, we were introduced to Dr. Karen Fricker who is a professional theatre critic and a drama lecturer at Royal Holloway. Karen was really cool. She had loads of experience and knowledge regarding criticism. We looked at some background information in connection with Alice In Funderland and Tea Chests and Dreams. We discussed openly in small groups what we were expecting from the performances that we were going to see that day. We looked at images from both productions, the cast list and their backgrounds, production teams, venues, etc.
Following the workshop, we had a quick bite to eat and then we journeyed on the bus, which brought us directly to the Abbey theatre in Dublin’s city centre to see Alice in Funderland. It was absolutely fantastic. Philip McMahon produced something very fresh, vibrant and engaging. Not one dull moment throughout. I recommend anybody to go see it; it’s well worth it. The souvenir programmes were also fantastic. I personally collect programmes from all the shows I go to and this one was really superb. It was my first visit to the Abbey Theatre venue and it will be indeed one that will last with me a lifetime. I found it really warm and inviting. Overall, an outstanding production in a lovely venue.
After the performance of Alice In Funderland, we took a bus out to Ballymun in Dublin where we would see an evening performance of Dermot Bolger’s play Tea Chests and Dreams - A Night of First Nights in The Axis Arts Centre of Ballymun. We were served dinner in the Axis before the performance, it was delicious and we were all really well looked after. The Axis, for me, was a bright, open and airy space with a very laid-back and relaxed kind of ambiance. The Axis provides a wide range of services like Theatre, Arts classes, Crèche, etc. so therefore I was very excited about the prospect of visiting it. Our group found the play very good overall but we felt some aspects of the show were a little lacking in spots. Bolger’s script was magnificent which made it a joy to watch. In a nutshell, a really nice production in an excellent venue which had some flaws but they may be forgiven due to the strength of the rest of the production.
A very tired bunch at this stage, we returned to our beds in Marino Institute that night after what was a very exciting and action-packed day. The two productions we had seen that day left a really lasting impact on us and it was really good to have the chance to mull things over, in a manner of speaking, overnight.
On Sunday, we arose bright and early for another workshop, again facilitated by Alan and Karen. It was excellent as always. We were divided into smaller groups and we engaged in discussions and debates about the productions we had seen the day before. It was really interesting to hear everybody’s opinions and reactions to the performances. Some people highlighted things others didn’t see and vice versa. We then had a questions and answers session with Karen in which a group of representatives from the different groups shared their mixed views and opinions.
We then got our final bus of the weekend into the city centre and parted ways. Knowing that we had learnt and shared things over the weekend that we mightn’t have got the opportunity to do, had we not been there, was a small consolation to the sad moment when we realized we wouldn’t be seeing each other for another three months.
We had seen two amazing pieces of theatre, engaged in lively discussions and debates, made new friends and had the craic all weekend and that is what I think sums up our weekend at NAYD Young Critics 2012.
Thank you so much NAYD for a fantastic weekend that we will truly never forget.