Rí Rá agus Ruaille Buaille ag NAYD

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When NAYD announced that they were launching an exciting new Irish language youth theatre project, I was more than intrigued. Not only would this new project, Speaking Our Language, give youth theatre members from all around Ireland the opportunity to help devise a new youth theatre play with a professional playwright, it would also allow them to marry their love of drama with their grá of Gaeilge. A series of drama workshops with the playwright and professional drama facilitators would take place in Dublin at the end of October, over a four day period, to assist the playwright in he/she’s mission to create a modern Irish play.

Being a past pupil of a gaeilscoil, I stepped up to the challenge and I was thrilled when NAYD contacted me to tell me that I had been selected as one of the fourteen lucky youth theatre members to take part in the course!

Finally, the big day, Tuesday 28th October, arrived and after several train delays, broken umbrellas and violent rain showers later, I arrived in the big smoke, setting my sights on our rendezvous point, Dublin’s G.P.O. After five or ten minutes, anxiously waiting, the other participants started to arrive and before long, we were chatting away and any previous nerves or worries quickly dissolved.

We were soon met by Alan King and Diane O’Connor from NAYD, who escorted us off to the brilliant Axis Theatre in Ballymun, for our first afternoon of workshops, where we were introduced to our facilitators: playwright and dance/drama practitioner Ciarán Gray, theatre and film actress Roxanna NicLiam and drama facilitator and performer Kelly Ní Dhuibhir.

To ease the nerves, we started off with a couple of ‘get-to-know-each-other-let’s-do-some-bonding’ games and some rather funky, energetic dance routines. – kudos to the groovy and wonderful Ciaran! After an afternoon of hilarious improvs, tableauxs and team-building exercises, we were off to a delicious dinner and then onto our accommodation in Marino (which is like Hogwarts except with good Wifi), where we chilled in the fancy common room and played many intense games of snaps!

Day Two (Wednesday 29th) came quicker than lightning and after an early start, we arrived in the Axis, to enjoy our first full day. We were told to bring five special objects with us – an object from the our past/future, a piece of cloth/clothing, a shopping list with an unexpected item, a stamped letter addressed to a real/fictitious person and a picture/drawing of our possible future selves. We were quite perplexed at first, scrambling are brains, trying to figure out what we could possibly need these for. However, it wasn’t long before we found out.

Ciarán made us place all of our special objects on the floor and then we split into four groups. Each group selected five objects they thought were interesting and using these objects, created a character with a story. Each group was placed in ‘the hot seat’ and had to answer quick-fire questions about the characters they had just developed. Next, we had the challenge of connecting our four characters and figuring out ways/scenarios that they could be linked together. Roxanna and Ciarán talked about the important ‘rómha’ or choice that each of our characters face and about the consequences of the decisions they make. After a successful day, we returned home Marino, for Halloween face painting, mass amounts of biscuits and a bizarre version of the Cha-Cha Slide.

By Day Three (Thursday 30th), we had all settled in nicely and after our breakfast of tea and pana chocolates (yes, pana chocolates, be jealous), we met up with our team. Like Wednesday, we brought along all our objects but instead of being divided into groups, we created our own individual character, using our own, distinctive objects. For the next step, we set up market stalls around the room and everyone had the chance to go from stall to stall, ask each character questions and investigate their life.

After lunch, we got all jazzy and  poetic and Ciarán thought us about writing haiku’s and spoken word pieces. We all went away and wrote a haiku about the ‘rómha’ in our character’s lives and using our useful theatre skills, composed a short performance for our small, intimate audience, followed by a deadly Blue Brothers dance routine!

After our workshops had finished, our ravenous and hyper party ventured into the depths of the jungle that is Dublin City Centre, where we enjoyed a meal at the Epicurean Food Hall (well worth a visit) and a performance (and post show talk) of ‘The Locked Room’ – by the very flexible and acrobatic Ether Productions- at the Project Arts Centre. Back in Hogwarts (i.e. Marino), we enjoyed one final night of pyjamas, DMCS and banter, dreading our final day together…

Our last day (Friday 31st or Halloween) was a bitter-sweet one! Today was more chilled and we indulged in games, improvs (one particular one called ‘Cé hé?’ which is a new favourite of mine!), pizza and superb Fatboy Slim dance routines! There was one final hurrah before we parted ways with our team and set off on our journeys back to our native counties. However, although our four day residential is now over, this is only the beginning of an exciting new project we are about to embark on. I’ve made thirteen wonderful, funny and incredibly talented life-long friends and being able to work with a team of such standard has been an amazing experience for me. Thanks for the memories guys (and kudos to Dublin Bus for no throwing us noisy teenagers off the bus!)