Young Critics On The Edge- Panel Discussion – Full Audio

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Young Critics On The Edge Panel Discussion Photo Credit: Alan King 

On Thursday July 7th, twelve Young Critics from all across the UK and Ireland met for the final time as part of Young Critics On The Edge.

During this session the Young Critics presented their findings to an audience of Symposium Delegates at BCU Birmingham. Here they discussed their process over the previous four days. They also provided critical responses to the four performances they attended as part of Young Critics On The Edge.

The session was chaired by Anna Galligan from Barnstorm Theatre Company with technical support by Alan King of the National Association for Youth Drama (Ireland)

You can listen to the Full Edited recording of the session here

Or you can listen to the session in smaller sections here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A big thank you to all the On The Edge Festival staff for all their kindness and goodwill over the five days in Birmingham.

 

Young Critics On The Edge  is a collaboration between Barnstorm Theatre Company,NAYD (National Association for Youth Drama) Ireland and Mess Up The Mess, Get the Chance (Wales) in conjunction with the Symposium strand of theASSITEJ Artistic Gathering for 2016.

 

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Young Critics On The Edge 2016 – Two Perspectives from Northern Ireland

Niamh Meehan and Tiarnán McCartney were the two Young Critics selected from Northern Ireland to take part in Young Critics On The Edge in Birmingham from July 3rd- 8th.

They were recruited to the project and supported by  Theatre NI , Young at Art and Theatre For Young Audiences Northern Ireland 

Here Niamh reflects on our week together in Birmingham 

Our week in Birmingham was divided into intensive days filled with workshops, performances and sessions with the creative teams behind the performances. The On The Edge Festival was an impressive amalgamation of different people; all of whom had different skills, were searching to develop different things, and were at different stages in their careers. The plethora of people brought together to celebrate, observe and learn from the exhibitions of theatre for young audiences became not only our friends, but mentors and teachers. There was so much to learn from listening to others experiences, and seeing their work. Our daily interactions and observations became an international education. I can’t emphasise enough that the quality of some of the theatre we seen, was nothing short of outstanding. Certain performances were so powerful, they will resonate with me for a long time.

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Niamh Meehan and Tiarnán McCartney Photo Credit: Alan King

My concept of theatre for young audiences has expanded from previously rigid preconceptions, to an understanding of this medium being open, complex and wonderful way to tell stories which serve all ages. In this way the Young Critics programme has been a success as it has been influential on a number of levels; from how I view theatre, to considerations about my future career. I hope to see the Young Critics programme expand as the positive consequences of its investment will benefit reviewers, theatre makers, and theatre goers alike. Reviews provide constructive and positive reinforcement for the artistic decisions creative teams are making, as well as providing shows with a public platform and recognition of their presence. Equally as performances are created to be seen and felt by audiences, the existence of reviews can inspire more people to attend performances.

I feel like everyone has something to say and write – the pivotal point around instigating the writing process lies in gaining confidence and nurturing potential; whether or not someone can avail of the tools and support to provide a reinforcing structure and coherence to someone’s opinions. The Young Critics programme has been the first of its kind I have seen which has focused on developing the critical skills surrounding understanding, and reviewing theatre in a constructive fashion. Being able to communicate, observe, analyse, evaluate and review are not just skills which apply to the writing and reviewing craft; they are the foundational skills which lead to professional, creative and academic progression. The programme has a far-reaching capability to improve people’s existing and untapped potentials, as well as their eligibility for a wide range of future opportunities. Not only this, but it has provided a creative outlet to explore the options we have when delivering our opinions on theatre, and on its social and cultural significance. Lastly, it has not only given myself, but all of the Young Critics the confidence to share our opinions and our love for theatre.

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Niamh Meehan and fellow Young Critic Ellie Woolman. Photo: Alan King

I owe my thanks to all the constituent theatre groups and people who have made the Young Critic programme not only possible, but a success.

Meanwhile  Tiarnán McCartney has this critique of his experiences 

Young Critics: On The Edge A Review

This tale begins upon arrival in Birmingham through the hazy and travel weary perspective of the Northern Irish contingent. A fierce heat reflected off flashy modern architecture foreshadowed what was to be an exciting and highly contrasted week of events, although exposition began quite slowly. It was hours after this initial landing before we saw any real progression in the narrative, however once the characters began to be introduced momentum was quickly built.

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Tiarnán McCartney (L) with fellow Young Critics Connor Gibson and Joe Trickey . Photo Credit: Alan King

A cast of 12 young writers and theatre enthusiasts was a risky decision at best and initial presentation of character was chaotic and lacked any real structure. The sudden barrage of names and nationalities was almost overwhelming at times, though credit to the members of the cast as very soon clear personalities and roles were carved and a very sharp, likeable and witty ensemble began to take shape. A diverse and intelligent bunch; a delightful sequence played out over the backdrop of a quiet Asian restaurant allowed further development of character and chemistry.

A warm prelude gave way to some serious drama as the young critics began their intense work-shopping experiences, guided by the wise Anna and Alan. Serious insight and depth of knowledge was displayed throughout the course of the next few days and emotions were running high as opinions were hotly debated in the sweltering work-shopping chambers. Questions were being asked of the true role of a critic, visceral reactions and at its heart; aesthetic appreciation.

The first show was a delightful, and almost deceiving, introduction to the series of plays that would be observed. A warm and playful piece called ‘Boing!’ that beautifully visualised the struggle for young children on Christmas Eve and how easily plans for sleeping can go astray. The strong fluid choreography and engaging child-like energy left the Young Critics charmed. And so the bar was set high. And a consensus of general dissatisfaction was reached with regard to the later show. However visually colourful and stunning, and with an amiable fellow in the wings providing quirky and rousing accompaniment, some Young Critics were left disappointed at the fact ‘Brush’ did contain much “Brush” at all.

An interesting development to the narrative was the introduction of ‘Marmalade’, at the Repertoire. This set-up allowed relationships and connections to develop on a more personal level and provided ample comic relief. In truth, at times conversation became erratic, dialogue was left lacking any real sense and questions were to be asked of why any of this was included? But this teaches us not to simply ask “Why?” As this is implies there is a definite reason behind it, but rather “What was the thinking behind this?”

Day Four still peering cautiously over The Edge, the Young Critics did to think to expect ‘Het Hamiltoncomplex’: a high-octane and fetishised blast of thirteen year old sexuality from Belgian director Lies Pauwels. As many questions were raised socially and ethically as were eyebrows, though I conclude this is a vital aspect of not just theatre but of any art form. Were the girls too young? Did they know what they were doing? Who was really doing the sexualising? Was it the girls? Was it Pauwels? Was it us?

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Tiarnán McCartney (R) alongside fellow Young Critics Tejal Mandalia and Andy McLoughlin at the Old Rep Bermingham for The Broke ‘N’ Beat Collective Photo: Alan King

All these questions were still milling about the heads of the Young Critics when the time came for the final show which was full of music, innovation and creativity. The Broken Beat Collective left spirits high that evening and Wales got stuffed by Portugal, so discussion was left for the following morning when a debate about culture left tensions running high. It was satisfying to watch how each personality had become gradually more comfortable and confident enough to push each other’s and their opinions.

The climax of this 5 day plot was a presentation slash panel discussion in which the Young Critics gave an impassioned performance and delivered delicate analysis and observations from the week past. This was met with standing ovation. The message I felt was important; that there is no good and there is no bad. No artist sets out to create bad work. A sudden twist revealed to everyone’s shock and horror that Korean theatre company Theatre Haddangse, creators of ‘Brush’ had in fact lost half their equipment in travelling to the UK. “Oh, how harsh we had been!” said the Young Critics “How guilty do we now feel!”

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Our Young Critics look decidedly On The Edge at BCU prior to their presentation. Photo: Alan King

Friday morning’s performance, in my opinion, lacked lustre and passion as the exhausted ensemble said goodbye in the place they had first met. Hugs were hugged, tears were shed and doors were left swinging open for a sequel or two.

Young Critics 2: In The Middle. Coming this Fall.

Young Critics On The Edge  is a collaboration between Barnstorm Theatre Company,NAYD (National Association for Youth Drama) Ireland and Mess Up The Mess, Get the Chance (Wales) in conjunction with the Symposium strand of theASSITEJ Artistic Gathering for 2016.

Niamh Meehan and Tiarnán McCartney  participation at Young Critics On The Edge was supported by  Theatre NI , Young at Art and Theatre For Young Audiences Northern Ireland 

Boing! & The Hamilton Complex -Two Reviews by Young Critic On The Edge Niamh Meehan

Boing!

The Mac Birmingham 

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Travelling Light present us with a tale touched by the magic of Christmas Eve, as brothers Joel and Wilkie battle to sleep in anticipation of Santa’s arrival. Boing is simplistic in concept and effectively minimalistic in design ensuring our focus is consistently immersed in the antics of the two brothers as they grapple with their bursts of energy. The spectacle of this multifaceted show is mesmerising and elevated by the meticulous and beautiful execution of movement and dance sequences on stage. This effervescent story narrates a universal experience and is littered with tender moments, which will resonate with warmth in children and adults alike. Boing is a dazzling, boisterous and inimitable production; an experience to be shared.

The Hamilton Complex

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The Hamilton Complex is a beautifully experimental production, which narrates the tumultuous transition of adolescence in an unapologetically uncensored fashion. Thirteen girls on the threshold of their teenage years begin to deal with the death of their childhood selves and the painful birth of their adolescent identities. The girls’ evolution is marked by events which appear sporadic in nature; mimetic of the incoherence and energy the fluctuation of teenage life presents to its bewildered victims. Moments of elation, underpinned by the illusion of self-discovery, are annihilated by the challenging encounters the teenagers grapple with, as they mature. However the girls stake their individuality among their uncertainty ; a form of personal success on its own and a beautiful message in itself. The girls become victors of a change that nature decided for them, and they survive and prevail. The production shamelessly presents to us the good, the bad, and the ugly faces of change through a visually powerful performance, full of movement, colour and questions – the answers of which we decide for ourselves.

 

 

Both shows played as part of On The Edge 2016

Niamh Meehan 

Come join Young Critics On The Edge  on July 7th  in the BCU Parkside Building, Lecture Theatre from 5-6.30 to hear the Young Critics critical responses to several productions from On The Edge .

Learn about more Young Critics that are On The Edge here 

Young Critics On The Edge  is a collaboration between Barnstorm Theatre Company,NAYD (National Association for Youth Drama) Ireland and Mess Up The Mess, Get the Chance (Wales) in conjunction with the Symposium strand of the ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering for 2016.

 

A Critical Response to Brush by Andy McLoughlin, Young Critic On The Edge

 

Brush

Birmingham Mac

On The Edge Festival

Aged 4+

At its beginning, Brush sets itself up as a play for young people which thrives on creating magic from simplicity.

Made by a Korean company, Theatre Haddangse, and starring Korean actors, there exists a language barrier which limits the expressive options of the performers from the spoken word to the visual and audible as they tell their story. At least initially, the show rises to this challenge very well.

The tale of a child venturing into the woods in search of a God who will grant him a baby brother seems to fit the mold of the coming of age story very comfortably. But the simplicity of the play is even more apparent in its more technical aspects.

The set initially consists of a triptych of flats covered in paper on which the actors can paint the setting of each scene.

Using a few simple brush strokes the actors can literally paint a picture of the world they are prevented from describing with words. But the really wondrous moments come when it is revealed that there is more to the set than meets the eye. In moments that almost feel more like magic tricks than theatre, puffs of smoke, soundscapes, silouhettes and puppets are introduced, seemingly from out of thin air. It is this ability to make us expect simplicity and give us spectacle that keeps us on our toes in the plays opening few scenes.

It is excellently scored by a musician who is present onstage throughout the performance.

It is this feeling that we are given at the start of theatre being not just performed, but created in front of our very eyes, that promises to give us the sense of awe we associate with children’s theatre.

At this early point in the play, two things are clear: 1) If this play is going to be memorable, it will be for individual moments of genuine wonder. 2) These theatre makers are capable of showing impressive levels of creativity in executing those moments.

Unfortunately, this play is also an excellent example of the inherent difficulties of relying on these unpredictable flourishes to keep your audience captivated. As the play progresses, we begin to expect to be surprised, and so the performers were forced with the choice of either becoming predictable and boring, or escalating the spectacle and getting further and further away from the simplicity that made the show so watchable to begin with.

One way to get around this problem is to have a strong narrative backbone to structure the play around, but this would prove to be the show’s Achilles’ heel. The tale which lies at the play’s centre has the structure and familiarity of a Western fairytale, but rather than develop or explore the central characters and themes contained in it, the play seems to fall back again on its increasingly extravagant lighting and design tricks, which can only hold the attention of an audience for so long. None of this is to say that you necessarily need a traditional hero’s journey style structure in order for an audience to feel invested. But at the end of the day, the type of story which Theatre Haddangse have decided to tell here is designed to be told in a very traditional way and by surrendering story to style to an increasing degree over the course of the production, something integral to the piece as a whole does seem to have been lost.

If nothing else, an audience member, be they child or adult, who walks out of this production will have seen something genuinely novel to them, and very often that is enough to make a theatre experience worthwhile.

But for all their originality, Haddangse seem to have neglected some of these more basic, tried and tested aspects of storytelling, which are really necessary to keep an audience engaged, especially one aimed at such a young audience.

Brush finished its run at On The Edge on Tuesday July 5th.

Andy McLoughlin

Come join Young Critics On The Edge  on July 7th  in the BCU Parkside Building, Lecture Theatre from 5-6.30 to hear the Young Critics critical responses to several productions from On The Edge .

Learn about more Young Critics that are On The Edge here 

Young Critics On The Edge  is a collaboration between Barnstorm Theatre Company,NAYD (National Association for Youth Drama) Ireland and Mess Up The Mess, Get the Chance (Wales) in conjunction with the Symposium strand of the ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering for 2016.

 

Young Critics On The Edge – Meet the Facilitators

On the 3rd of July, 12 Young Critics from across Ireland and the UK will descend upon Birmingham for the THE WORLD FESTIVAL OF THEATRE FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES.

In this blog we will be profiling the facilitators who who will be guiding the Young Critics through  On the Edge . The two facilitators are Anna Galligan and Alan King and both come with a wealth of knowledge and experience to the project

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Anna Galligan & Alan King – Facilitators for Young Critics On The Edge

Anna Galligan

Anna has been a professional arts worker for over 25 years. During this time she has worked as a professional actress, facilitated arts, dance, theatre and training programmes She has designed and delivered arts programmes and acted as a arts programme consultant in a variety of settings including youth theatre, mental health services, education and law.

Anna worked at the National Association for Youth Drama (NAYD) in Ireland for ten years. During her time at NAYD she created ArtsTrain, a full-time drama facilitation programme which became Ireland’s first full time accredited course in drama facilitation and introduced the programmes ‘Leading On…’, an annual training programme for youth theatre leaders and ‘The Young Critic’s Programme’ as well as developing various supports in terms of best practice and policy in youth theatre.

Anna is currently Outreach Officer with Barnstorm Theatre Company. As part of her work she is administrator, facilitator and artistic director of Kilkenny Youth Theatre. Anna continues to develop her practice in terms of critical analysis through her work with Red Square and Culture Club, a intergenerational critic’s programme looking at the Visual Arts and Theatre run in partnership with the Butler Gallery.

She is delighted to be teaming up with Alan and NAYD to deliver Young Critics On The Edge.

Alan King 

Alan has been professional arts worker for over 20 years. During this time his career has spanned acting, producing, directing, facilitating, venue management and arts consultancy for a wide variety of companies and organisations.

Since 2010 he has been Youth Theatre Officer for the National Association for Youth Drama in Ireland. He manages and co-facilitates the highly successful and innovative Young Critics Programme alongside Dr. Karen Fricker. Aimed at youth theatre members who are interested in watching, critically discussing and reviewing theatre,16 young people work together over a six-month period. Content is regularly added to the Young Critics Blog and the programme culminates with a live panel discussion at the Dublin Theatre Festival every October.

In addition to this Alan supports the sustained artistic development of youth theatres through the development of resources, training, support and advice and works on many other areas of NAYD’s national programme including  c0-producing the National Youth Theatre, IGNITE Youth Theatre Performance Festival and the National Festival of Youth Theatres.

He has also performed with many of Ireland’s leading theatre companies and he has worked on numerous directing, devising and facilitation projects with youth theatre/youth drama groups and professional companies. He is currently the Chair of Dublin Youth Theatre. 

He is delighted to be  co-facilitating with Anna at Young Critics On The Edge and sharing NAYD’s Young Critics practice with the symposium delegates.

Come join Young Critics On The Edge at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on July 7th  in the Parkside Building, Lecture Theatre from 5-6.30 to hear the Young Critics critical responses to several productions from On The Edge .

Learn about more Young Critics that are On The Edge here 

Young Critics On The Edge  is a collaboration between Barnstorm Theatre Company,NAYD (National Association for Youth Drama) Ireland and Mess Up The Mess, Get the Chance (Wales) in conjunction with the Symposium strand of theASSITEJ Artistic Gathering for 2016.

Meet these Young Critics that are On The Edge (pt 6)

On the 3rd of July, 12 Young Critics from across Ireland and the UK will descend upon Birmingham for the THE WORLD FESTIVAL OF THEATRE FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES.

In the run up to to the Festival we will be profiling the Young Critics who will participating at On the Edge The two Young Critics that will be travelling to Birmingham from Northern Ireland are Tiarnán McCartney and Niamh Meehan. They have been recruited to the project through Theatre NI , Young at Art and Theatre For Young Audiences Northern Ireland 

Tiarnán McCartney

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Tiarnán McCartney is 19 years old and has lived in Derry, Northern Ireland all his life. Ever since Tiarnán can remember he as always loved language; playing with words, making up stories and telling people lies. Tiarnán has always had great love for music and film and has experience writing for music magazines and local newspapers, though he has only recently stumbled upon the wonder of theatre and is now completely hooked. Tiarnán is looking forward to developing his use of language and meeting fellow aspiring writers.

Tiarnán has a crazy plan to move to Berlin in September and hopes one day to make a little money from his words.

Niamh Meehan

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Niamh Meehan – Young Critic On The Edge

Niamh Meehan is an Irish undergraduate student of English Literature and Creative Writing in the city of York. Her passions are orientated around what the humanities and arts can do for people; of how they can mobilise the diversity of creative human endeavour at the level of words. She is interested in many different dimensions of literary and artistic forms; from gender studies to theatre adaptation, scriptwriting to literary theory. She hopes to cultivate these interests through a holistic education, with hopes to develop a specialism in the near future.

Come join Young Critics On The Edge at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on July 7th  in the Parkside Building, Lecture Theatre from 5-6.30 to hear the Young Critics critical responses to several productions from On The Edge .

Learn about more Young Critics that are On The Edge here 

Young Critics On The Edge  is a collaboration between Barnstorm Theatre Company,NAYD (National Association for Youth Drama) Ireland and Mess Up The Mess, Get the Chance (Wales) in conjunction with the Symposium strand of theASSITEJ Artistic Gathering for 2016.

Meet these Young Critics that are On The Edge (PT 1)

On the 3rd of July, 12 Young Critics from across Ireland and the UK will descend upon Birmingham for the THE WORLD FESTIVAL OF THEATRE FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES.

In the run up to to the Festival we will be profiling the Young Critics who will participating at On the Edge 

First up it’s Saoirse and Andy from Ireland. Both were participants on the National Association for Youth Drama’s Young Critics programme in 2013 and 2014 respectively

Saoirse Anton

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Saoirse Anton – Young Critic On The Edge

 

I was an NAYD Young Critic in 2013, having been involved in Youth Theatre since I was about 13. Now, 3 years later, I have just finished my second year of English Literature and Drama in Trinity College Dublin. Alongside University, I author my own theatre-based blog, Sitting on the Fourth Wall,as well as writing for The Reviews Hub, University Times, and TCD Rant & Rave. I have also worked on a number of arts and theatre projects recently, including sitting on a number of Arts Council panels, being part of the panel presenting the Dublin 2020 European Capital of Culture bid, speaking at Theatre Forum’s APAC 2015 and 2016, and mentoring in theatre criticism with NAYD.

I’m looking forward to the chance to revisit the Young Critics model with new people in a new format and build on what I learned first time round with the experience I have since, and have an action packed week in the ever-exciting world of theatre for young audiences!

Andrew McLoughlin

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Andy McLoughlin – Young Critic On The Edge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A member of Droichead Youth Theatre since 2013, Andy has been involved in Young Critics for almost as long as he’s been watching theatre. Following key roles in Around The World in Eighty Days and The Laramie Project, at the moment Andy is involved in compiling an anthology of original plays as part of Droichead Youth Theatre’s 25th Anniversary Celebrations. Currently studying Philosophy, Politics, Economics and Sociology in Trinity College Dublin, he has a particular interest in the opportunities and difficulties in using narrative to explore social issues. This question will be at the fore of Droichead Youth Theatre’s upcoming adaptation of Tom Swift’s The Leaving.

Come join Young Critics On The Edge at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on July 7th  in the Parkside Building, Lecture Theatre from 5-6.30 to hear the Young Critics critical responses to several productions from On The Edge 

Young Critics On The Edge  is a collaboration between Barnstorm Theatre Company,NAYD (National Association for Youth Drama) Ireland and Mess Up The Mess, Get the Chance (Wales) in conjunction with the Symposium strand of the ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering for 2016.