Storming The Castle: DYT meets Dochas Pocus

Today our guest writers are Kerri Walsh and Louis Flanagan, giving us an account of our recent foray into the Development sector, the European year for Development, and  trips to Dublin Castle x 2! Enjoy!

Two conferences. One castle. And a whole lotta teenagers….

Don’t worry, I can safely assure you this isn’t the tagline to a new big-budget sappy teen blockbuster. Nor is it an elaborate plot to blow up a castle either. It’s much more entertaining, much more intriguing than any of those things…it is – what we at Droichead Youth Theatre to call – a Grand Droichead Adventure!

You’re probably asking yourself what in the hell I’m on about – and I don’t blame you. Well, about three months ago – December, if you insist on being precise – we were contacted by the lovely Claire Lynch, who had a most intriguing task for us. Not only is she a Drogheda native – well, a Duleek native to be politically correct – but a Droichead Youth Theatre alumnus and junior facilitator too. Claire had been hired by Irish organisation Dóchas to plan a conference in Dublin Castle celebrating the European Union’s Themed Year. In previous years, the European Union’s annual themes have included Peace and Equality; however 2015 marked the Year of Development, a year to combat poverty in Third World Countries, a year of fair trade and fair solutions and a year to close that ever-widening, ever-frightening gap between nations of the North and South.

We could not change the world entirely; but luckily, we could help! And that’s exactly what Claire wanted us to do. She gave us the task of creating a short theatrical piece relating to the theme of development, allowing us to marry our love of theatre with our love of economics! Our only trouble was…well, where to start! It wasn’t long before we got cracking on the research and over the Christmas period, we discussed all of our findings, everything from sanitation in Developing Countries to ongoing debates on the ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ charity single to radiators in Norway!

Discussing these topics and stories certainly was an eye-opener and it wasn’t long before we had kinds of ideas about what we wanted to do for the conference and what message we wanted to convey. After some long brainstorming, we created a three-minute piece, which we jokingly named Dochas Pocus – a name that stuck around! The piece which shows the ineffectiveness of aid to Third World Countries and the corruption of many of the First World governments. As well as this, the piece also allowed us to use many theatre techniques, including ensemble, tableaux, movement and music. With the conference day looming, we had some time to polish and perfect it before show time arrived!

The big day – Thursday January 22nd – soon arrived and we descended on The Big Shmoke (via the divine Irish Rail), props ready, clothes neat, hair and make up perfected and butterflies fluttering about in  our stomachs! Arriving in the city of Dublin, we frolicked our way to Dublin Castle – it really is a castle – and made our way to the ever-so-not-green- green-room where we met many of the speakers and conference participants. One particularly interesting group was Clowns For Haiti, a Dublin-based charity who travel to poverty-stricken areas of Haiti – especially those areas harshly affected by the 2010 Earthquake – and perform and entertain children using magic and circus tricks.  Meeting this particular group was one of the highlights of the event for me. Another highlight, you could say, was the opportunity to meet our very own President Michael. D. Higgins, who was one of the special guest speakers at the event. We even got a few snaps with the man himself (who is, like us, an avid fan of theatre!)

Performance time was fast approaching and we waited anxiously in the corridors, hearts palpitating and pulses racing, for our cue. No matter how times you’ve performed onstage – let it be twice or two hundred times – you still have to battle those pre-show nerves, that keep rattling inside you. Suddenly, our names were announced and we paced across the thronged room towards the stage, cool as crisp, and took our starting position. There was an amazing atmosphere in the room and our performance went flawlessly. Rapturous applause swooped through the room and it was definitely one of the most exhilarating and memorable moments I’ve had during my time at Droichead Youth Theatre. We celebrated afterwards, in true Droichead style, with a well-deserved trip to McDonald’s on O’Connell Street – FACT: the widest street in Europe – before we ventured home to our abodes in Drogheda.

However, things are never quite as they seem and what was supposed to be a once-off performance at Dublin Castle turned into something of a theatre sensation! Less than twenty-four hours following our Dochas Pocus performance, we received an invitation from the National Youth Council of Ireland (NCYI) – best youth council around may I add! – to perform the same devised piece at their conference celebrating the EU Year of Development! And naturally, we couldn’t refuse another offer to play in the castle!

The date was set for Tuesday 10th February, which unfortunately clashed with the mock exams, meaning a cast reshuffle! Despite this, the strong performance remained the same and soon we were setting off towards Dublin Castle, energetically eager to perform in our favourite castle once again! The wonderful NCYI welcomed us upon our arrival and the whole conference hall was bustling with representatives from every aspect of youth life – from scouts to sportspeople to slam poetry artists! Our performance took place shortly after lunchtime and once again, we received a great response and much praise from many spectators.

With some time to spare in the afternoon period, we whisked ourselves off to the fabulous Murphy’s Ice Cream parlour, for some good ‘oul County Kerry ice-cream – the sea salt and cookies are a personal favourite of mine – a place so magical and heavenly, there are so limited words to describe it. We also managed to stop by in Trinity College – home of our very talented facilitators Christina, Cathal and Lorna -taking time out to see Front Square, the Trinity Drama Department and an exciting exhibition piece in aid of the Jack and Jill Foundation by Drogheda artist Ciaran Dunleavy! We even broke out into a few Midsummer Night’s Dream poses – how could we resist? – before heading home to our beloved Drogheda!

This experience is nothing like we’ve done before. This whole experience got us out of our own comfort zones. It got us discussing, got us talking about issues well worth taking about. We’ve met some influential people along the way and most importantly we’ve learned that we can’t save the world completely – but we can certainly try.

– Louis Flanagan and Kerri Walsh xo


A week of Good Times and Memories: a blog, by Gavin Byrne

This week our guest blogger is Gavin Byrne, giving us an account of his transition year work experience with our Artistic Director Christina Matthews. Enjoy!

Aloha reading people. So, I’ve asked to do one of these blog things. This shall be an adventure as they say, so I’ll be doing it based on the pleasant experience of my work experience with Christina. Well, one thing for sure, it’s a lot more exciting than doing boring Stuff in a shop. Even if this time I didn’t get any candy…. But despite the lack of expired candy, it was a super fun experience! For sure. On the Tuesday of the week, me and other Droichead Youth Theatre members went down to the best, and possibly only Conference venue, Dublin Castle! We performed our very special Dochas Piece for all the viewing persons present. It was a very moving piece to do with development, and Aid, and such concerning stuff. Some may say we had the Acting Force of an Almighty Mountain! Cause we were tremendous in Acting Prowess. After our amazing spectacular performance, we went and got Ice-Cream from Murphy’s on Wicklow Street. It was fantastic with a side if brilliant. They had oh so many flavors to choose from, from scrumptious ‘Sea Salt’, to totally bonkers ‘Brown Bread’! We embarked upon great fun, dashing through Trinity College on a Photograph Frenzy! From Stromtrotters to impersonating structures, all the way to Building Pointing, oh we had it all!

But the very next day, I was to do classes with Christina, and after slight misadventures, I arrived upon the place of my destination! To start off with, there was a Hardy Hip-Hop class. We had the fun dancing to much! Including, but not limited to, The Spice Girls, All about that bass, and more of different kinds! It was exhausting to be sure, but it ended like most things do, and then Drama Classes began, and fun and merriment were had! From neutralness, to quick thinkingness, many useful skills were explored.

Then for reasons, I had to attend a fabulous play, called “Patrick Kavanagh, A life”. It was a one man play, about the life of Patrick Kavanagh. It seemed to be a fun life, full of growing up up on a Farm in the odd place that is Monaghan, to even more stuff. But I’m going to digress here, did you know, that Monaghan is the smallest county in Ulster, and is actually part of the Republic of Ireland. But back to the play, there was such a moment of explosive excitement, as Kavanagh made a Pyramid of Tin Cans go Boom! All across the stage! Tension was high, as one can in particular tried to crawl off the stage, no, it was stopped, by its own lack of momentum. Truly a tear jerking moment. He talked of his sad life, of struggles, hunger, ducks, children, the bishop and about poverty. Fun subjects all round.

And then for the ‘Ante-penultimate’ day of the week, (that’s the one that comes before the Penultimate one) travels brought us to the area known as Swords again. Drama was done, and Superheroes were the topic of the room. Batman is not Superhero as we all should know. And Martian Manhunter’s status as a ‘Superhero’ was questioned…. I maintain that he’s not… The option of eternal life was brought up, along with other fun, cool stuff….. Yeah, that was neat. Wow, this blogging thing has been interesting I guess. Who knows, I may do another! We’ll see. This has been the Fabulous, Marvelous Brilliance that is Gavin. Y’all are welcome.