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

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