Viewpoints with Catherine Sheridan and NAYD

This summer we got the opportunity to go to Kilkenny for NAYD’s National Festival of Youth Theatres. Four of our members took part in Viewpoints master workshops facilitated by the lovely Catherine Sheridan. Viewpoints is a technique of improvisation that gives performers an experimental space to work together as an ensemble through movement to develop a piece.
Here is what some of our members thought!
“I picked the viewpoints workshop because it was the only option that focused on movement.  I thought not only would it be a useful technique for acting, but also for stage managing or directing. During the week we looked at the various aspects of viewpoints varying from simply walking around the room, to the 12’6’4 routine (which I am still recovering from).  Although the workshop taught me about viewpoints it also showed me how in such a short space of time a group of people who had never met before could be so in tune with each other.  By the end of the week we managed to complete tasks with a sense of ease that I have only experienced before with people that I have known for the majority of my life.” – Leanne

“In Droichead we do a lot of movement pieces so going into viewpoints I was pretty happy that I knew a lot about movement as an ensemble. However, viewpoints took a different turn than what I was used to. We worked barefooted and weren’t allowed to wear jeans which was a surprise and hard at first coming from a person who loves their jeans. We did many different exercises to work spontaneously and together as a group. We had to learn to get the group impulse to do something. One exercise which really helped the group to work together is 12,6,4. This is where the group would run in a circle and together would have to complete 12 turns, 6 jumps and 4 stops. At first it was hard to fight the temptation to lead but after doing it for a week you learn to use your soft focus and peripheral vision to be able to work and move together as a group. The thing that really impacted me on with viewpoints is how free you can move as a group. Sometimes we were given instructions to include in a piece but the best pieces were those where we had the freedom to work as we wished. With viewpoints you are able to push boundaries, for example personal space! There were times where I would add or create a piece and people would add on but personal space is completely forgotten about! I found viewpoints as a new and different aspect of theatre that you can use to express feelings and tell stories with or without words that you’d still happily pay €10 to see and leave thinking “wow, that was amazing!” Overall my week in Kilkenny was amazing and I couldn’t have spent it with better people. I’ve learnt so much that I can use in Droichead and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to go. I made so many new friends and became closer to my group as well. Thanks NAYD!”    – Alix

“On first arrival in the McAdoo Hall I was confused by the enthusiasm of the wonderful and extremely talented, Katherine Bell, she was singing the bright, bare rooms praises. The open, light wooden floored space was a simple delight to the experienced viewpoint-er. Over the week I learned why and also began revelling in the marvel of it’s architectural structure and simplicity.

First impressions are make or break, as we all know, and let’s just say our first impression was odd, but not break! “Take off your shoes and socks”, wait, what?? The amount of us who had kept on our socks only to be told again that we had to take them off. We could not come to terms with it at all! Yet again, as the week passed, no shoes and no socks became normal to us. Walking into our ‘roving workshops’ and keeping our feet trapped within the confines of our shoes became the oddity.

The most impressive thing about Viewpoints, for me, was the way in which it set a comfortable atmosphere between a group of twenty or so teens who had never met before. By the end of the second day we were devising and creating as though we had all come from the same youth theatre. We all worked so well together, it was quite surprising. We played off of each other’s ideas. We fed off of each other’s energy. We formed a bond and a trust. Not to mention making some life-long friends along the way!

Viewpoints uses the grid and every now and then I find myself falling into the motion of lines, curves or diagonals. Working with speed and duration, bettering my kinaesthetic response, looking and finding inspiration in the shapes of the world around me – all of these skills I have acquired that I don’t just work into my theatre, I work them into my everyday life. Quite fitting to that saying ‘Life’s a stage’, I suppose. Wait, is that a saying? Or did I just make that up? Well I guess it’s a saying now, and what an adequate saying it is.

Everyone should try their hand at Viewpoints. It is necessary for life. Do it. Now. Just do it!
This has been a PSA.”   – Anna

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The Field: A review by Eimear Thornton

This week on the blog we have a review of John B. Keane’s The Field, which ran in the Gaiety Theatre earlier this year, by Eimear Thornton!

Back in spring, I went up to Dublin with my family to see the latest production of John B Keane’s “The field” in the Gaiety. As this was a preview night, a few kinks were to be expected, but I don’t think any logical thoughts could have prepared me for this performance.

First and foremost the stage direction was very poor, almost non-existent. Leamy, Michael Flannagan’s 12 year old son was most definitely well into his 20’s. Maggie Butler, the old widow had such a dominant powerful stage presence, it really did not match up to her character profile. The bishops speech after the killing *spoilers* was 75% longer than it needed to be, or indeed was in the original text, and kids, despite what your teachers think, shouting really isn’t essential to get your point across. Tadhg McCabe, the Bull’s son, was more focused on cracking the Carraigthomond Kerry accent than delivering his lines and it showed, he also shouted a lot, portraying no emotion whatsoever. A lot of the characters were very bland, showing nothing underneath the surface, they delivered their lines with no conviction and they did not make their characters their own which is crucial for any performance. Leamy was sent “up the country” which completely ruined the ending, as he is supposed to be the last character to leave the stage. Finally, the Bull. The Bull McCabe can make or break a production and in this case, it was broken. The Bull is meant to be one of the most feared men in Inchibawn, but he wasn’t. His threats were half hearted and mumbled.

However there is always a silver lining, which came in the form of an extraordinary set. Even in Mick’s pub, you could see the field on top of it. This symbolised the weight that the love of land was pushing down on all involved. It was a very clever use of the stage and sets. The aesthetic of the outdoor scene was magnificent. Picture this: A blank dark stage, fog everywhere, and a lone tree downstage right. Pretty amazing right? It definitely looked the part and I was very impressed. Also a strong performance from Maimie was enough to convince me that this trip to the city was not a complete waste of time. All in all, it was a poor performance. However this production has a lot of potential, but they will have to get their “act” together.