This week we are fighting fit and back in action, with an account of NAYD’s Young Critics weekend by Andy McLoughlin!
The Young Critics Workshop took place last weekend over the course of three days and there’s a lot to talk about so I suppose the best place to start is at the start.
About two months ago, after drama, a senior DYT member came in to talk to us about this Young Critics programme in Dublin she had been to. You go see two plays over the course of 3 days in April and again in October. Accommodation and food would be provided and you would get classes on how to analyse theatrical productions. It seemed strange at first to be learning about theatre outside the context of actually being involved, but the idea appealed to me. I knew almost nothing about theatre compared to my almost embarrassing obsession with the rest of pop culture, and this would be a great opportunity to learn a thing or two.
I filled out the form, which included a very short critical review of a play I had seen recently. This was easier said than considering, as I’ve mentioned, I really didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. But I did my best and came up with a smooth 150 words and sent off the form off to NAYD with my fingers crossed. A few weeks later, I got a call from Alan King, the Youth Theatre Officer in charge of the programme, letting me know I had gotten in. I stifled my girlish squeals of excitement and began preparing for the course.
After no time at all I found myself at the GPO meeting up with the rest of the participants in the course to be bussed over to the Marino institute for the first day of activities. That day we all got to know each other through drama games, awkward small talk and Shakespearean battle sequences. When the two workshops were done we were shown to our bedrooms and hung out in the common room, sharing in-jokes and generally getting on the banter train.
The next morning was when the fun really began. We got up at the ungodly hour of 8 a.m. and went down to the first workshop. It was here that we discussed things like the role of the critic, who a critic writes for, why they are important etc. After that we discussed the plays we were going to see that afternoon. I had already seen “Quietly” by Owen McCafferty and reviewed it to get into the course, but “An Ideal Husband” by Oscar Wilde was something I knew almost nothing about aside from the brief bits and pieces of research I had done before the course.
We went into Dublin at around 12 and after a quick bite to eat, we went straight to the first play. I wasn’t expecting much from “An Ideal Husband” as I’ve never considered myself to be a fan of period dramas and a play about aristocrats and extramarital affairs really wasn’t my scene. I was shocked to find that the play compared more to “The Thick of It” than “Downton Abbey” with its non-stop one liners and bumbling politicians.
After the show we were treated to a conversation with Marty Rea, who played Lord Goring in the play. After gushing about his fantastic physical performance for an appropriate amount of time, we got down to asking questions. He was full of great advice and insights, from editing out the vaguely sexist parts of the play, to what it’s really like getting into acting young (not to mention the fine art of the tongue twister).
From there we took a short break before going to the next play, Quietly by Owen McCafferty. I had seen it before and it isn’t exactly a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sort of play, but it’s always nice to get a closer look at something in a different setting. After the dynamic and relentless adventure of “An Ideal Husband” and the boiling tension of “Quietly” we were too exhausted to do anything else and went back to the college to catch some shut-eye.
The next morning was a bittersweet experience. It being our third and last day, the initial awkwardness between us had subsided but was replaced by the underlying knowledge that it would be our last few hours together. We went down to the workshop room one last time for a lengthy discussion about the plays we had seen. We split up into four groups to discuss the plays and each group then elected 2 spokespeople to speak on a panel about the plays we had seen. It was then that we realised what we had really learned over that weekend. I was thinking about things like the role of a director in a play and the importance of personal opinion in analysis that had never even crossed my mind before.
Overall this will certainly be a weekend to remember. And not just because of the free accommodation and food either. It’s refreshing to spend so much time around so many people who are smarter than you, but share a common fascination with the art we’re so privileged to consume in the first world. All of that’s left me looking forward tremendously to the second weekend of the course this autumn.