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Young Critics’ Programme at Riverbank Arts Centre

We are delighted to be working with a group of eight talented young critics who are attending and reviewing most of the theatre shows at Riverbank Arts Centre this season and next:
Kate Bevan, Jenny Dillon, Becky Donovan, Stephanie Hood, Sinead Mooney, Kai Ryan, Caitlin Smith and Rachel Thornton.

This group, drawn from members of Kildare Youth Theatre and Griese Youth Theatre,  will take part in a Masterclass with feature writer/critic Sara Keating (The Irish Times, Sunday Business Post) in the coming weeks. The programme will culminate with a panel discussion during NT Connections at Riverbank Arts Centre in March 2019. We are delighted to be able to support this programme and also to receive such articulate and comprehensive feedback to our theatre shows.

Here is a selection of the reviews we have received so far:

HERO by Ken Rogan
Performed by Daithi Mac Suibhne
Directed by Amilia Stewart
Production Company – Daemon Productions/Theatre Upstairs
Reviewed at Riverbank Arts Centre on Friday, 28th September 2018

The play brought me through a journey of my own emotions. I love examining a piece before it starts. The set was somewhat unclear at the beginning when ‘Smithy’ (played by Daithi Mac Suibhne) began to speak about football all the while being surrounded by empty Heineken bottles and scrunched up tissues. Although unclear at the start, the choice of set made perfect sense towards the end as we knew he was attending a wedding. The acting by Daithi was flawless. The way he showed the different characters was second to none. I love how he changed, not only his physicality but his voice to mirror the various characters. They were all so easily identifiable just by the changing of his voice. One element I loved was the connection between the actor and the audience. From personal experience I know how difficult it can be to look an audience member dead in the eye and present your lines to them. From beginning to end it really felt like you were right there with Daithi as he went through the stages, from the pub to the football field. The acting was so pure and raw you really believed that Daithi was Smithy and he was going through this emotional turmoil. One thing that has to be addressed was the ending. I watched eagerly to see if Smithy was going to marry Marissa or he was attending her wedding. The play then ended ambiguously. The woman beside me asked ‘Wait, is he marrying Marissa? is Marissa marrying the other guy?’ I think this is notable. The audience, including myself were so engaged in the play that we wanted more, more answers specifically. Although some may not like the ambiguous ending I rather enjoyed it. It allowed me to think and create my own ending to the narrative. Summing up ‘Hero’ was an amazing production.
⭐⭐⭐⭐ Stephanie Hood, 19

In this one-man piece, Daithí Mac Suibhne shifts seamlessly from macho, laddish swagger to frustrated, hopelessly lovelorn intensity and back again as “Smithy”, a twentysomething sportsman struggling in love with a hot-and-cold Northern (as voiced by Mac Suibhne’s character) lawyer, Marissa, finding himself at the mercy of her every text to him, never able to tear himself away from her beck & call. In a one-actor production, it’s vital that the centre player keeps the audience’s attention from the get-go; Mac Suibhne does this and more with resounding success, exuding sheer character above and beyond even a sharp script already bursting with life, drawing as many gasps as laughs in this tragicomedy of machismo and hopeless romance. ⭐⭐⭐⭐  Sinead Mooney, 18

This play took the oldest topic in the world “Love” and made it seem new. I found the actor to be engaging and I became genuinely interested to hear what he had to say next. I often prefer larger casts in productions to one-man-shows but despite this felt Daithí Mac Suibhne pulled it off perfectly. His mimicking of his “girlfriend” Marissa fitted much more with his character, than him saying the lines to another actor would have been. It showed his juvenile side. The reveal at the end was perfect. The flower and ring were enough to suggest the ending to us while also leaving us wondering after the specifics.   ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  Kate Bevan, 15

As we walk into the theatre we see Smithy, cradling a beer in a dim lit stage dressed in suit and tie. We are first introduced to Smithy as your typical Irish lad, into football, pints, girls. But as we see him fall in love with ‘Marissa’, barely a ghost of a character we see a softer side of him. Perhaps almost an insight into a typical ‘lad’ . What happens when the person you love the most threatens your very existence? What happens when love crashes with typical Irish lad values and morals? What happens when you don’t know how to lose? Daithi Mac Suibhne’s acting was absolutely fantastic. He managed to turn what was somewhat a poorly written script into something really lovely.  ⭐⭐⭐⭐  Becky Donovan, 16

The play offers a nuanced look into the complicated and frustrating world of dating, as well breathing new life into archaic masculine stereotypes. Daithí Mac Suibhne is fascinating as the charismatic yet troubled Smithy, who strays between quiet insecurity to emotional exasperation. The script oozes charm and wit. It especially benefits from the one-man structure, as it creates a more personal connection between the audience and Smithy. It establishes a sense of personal openness, as if the unfolding stream-of-consciousness is the first time he’s been truly honest with himself in a long time. Ken Rogen navigates not only what it means to be a man, but what it means to be vulnerable and the guilt we feel when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Rachel Thornton, 18

Frank Pig Says Hello by Pat McCabe
Performed by Darragh Byrne and John Ruddy
Directed by Joe O’Bryne
Production Company Co-Motion
Presented at Riverbank Arts Centre on Thursday, 11th October 2018.

[Extract from a longer review] Frank Pig Says Hello is a slick, brilliant piece that hooks from the very first word and continues to reel in from those opening moments, elevated over and beyond the top by masterful design and breathtaking acting. Telling the tale of young Francie Brady in the backdrop of 1960s Ireland and his descent from joyous boyishness into broken brutality, Darragh Byrne brings a heartbreakingly giddy energy to the role of young Frank Pig, cartoonish in the best possible manner, while John Ruddy absolutely stuns, not only in his narration as the older Francie, but in his portrayal of every single character that populates the life of his younger self, effortlessly turning into completely different characters that never feel the same as each other. Without doubt, a play that thoroughly deserves its shining reputation as one of modern Ireland’s best. ⭐⭐⭐⭐  Sinead Mooney, 18

[Extract from a longer review] Frank Pig Says Hello was a production that inspired awe in me. The main character Francie Brady is intellectually disabled in some way (though is not specified or mentioned in the play). The play follows the life of young Frank (who I will refer to as Piglet) while an older version of Frank narrates and describes what Piglet was thinking at the time (played by John D. Ruddy). Piglet has a best friend called Joe who he is obsessed with. During the play, Piglet gets in trouble time and time again, all for things seemingly justified in his mind. I think the ambition of the play was to show the audience how Piglet’s mind and circumstances justified all of his actions.… John D. Ruddy plays a seemingly older version of Frank. Frank and Piglet mimic each other by brushing their hair out of their eyes. This is the only mannerism they have in common so it makes the appearance of it all the more captivating. I am unsure of whether he was supposed to be an older Frank or Frank’s subconscious mind. John D. Ruddy also switches in and out of every other character seen throughout the play. He switches voices and characters in mere seconds. It was incredible to watch and kept the fast-paced nature and energy in the show going in the more light-hearted scenes.   
Darragh Byrne excellently portrayed a young Francie (Frank) Brady, nicknamed Piglet. He did this by making Piglet’s mannerisms consistent and telling. I was reminded of by Piglet’s laugh and some of his other mannerism of the laugh and other mannerisms of another intellectually disabled character Gilbert Grape from the film “What’s eating Gilbert Grape?”. I also found Piglet’s friendship and obsession with Joe similar to Forrest Gump’s friendship and obsession with Jenny in “Forrest Gump”.
In conclusion, I thought Frank Pig Says Hello was a gripping production with a compelling storyline and excellent acting. I would recommend this production to anyone over the age of twelve. I don’t think anyone younger than that age would appreciate the production for all its worth. If the creators of the production set out to create a masterpiece, I believe they succeeded.  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Kate Bevan, 15

Frank Pig Says Hello is about a young boy who is mentally ill. This can be seen in his different mannerisms and how he refers to himself as a pig. This play is dark and twisted with its constant twists and turns and  I was engrossed from start to finish. The acting was amazing. I found myself forgetting that I was watching a play and thinking that I was in Frank Pig’s world. I would recommend that everyone see this show at least once.  This unique story is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  Caitlín Smith, 16

The direction of the play added some very interesting aspects to the production. Movement through a range of characters was presented well and one actor playing a variety of roles was an unexpected idea that worked great amongst the other factors. Suspense was built effectively throughout the play, keeping the audience on their feet and constantly excited for what was about to happen. I think the set design truly suited the overall atmosphere and the script was fast-paced and presented us with a surreal representation of the life of a young man struggling with schizophrenia and grappling with his sanity. There was an eerie quality which made the show all that more climatic with a number of twists and turns, the script constantly taking us somewhere new. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Jenny Dillon, 16

Bat The Father Rabbit The Son
Written and performed by Donal O’Kelly
Presented at Riverbank Arts Centre on Wednesday 7th November 2018

I found Bat the Father Rabbit the Son to be an incredibly interesting piece, exploring so called ‘self-made men’ and their attitude to the world around them. We see what an insane character is bubbling just beneath the surface of a quite successful businessman and we are unsure what is and isn’t real throughout the narrative, as he describes increasingly ludicrous things. We see how he hasn’t been able to gain the mental maturity to let go of things of the past,  leaving a seemingly unhinged man going through life too hurt and proud of the past to let go of it.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ Kai Ryan, 16



The Young King
Adapted from Oscar Wilde
Production Company: Slingsby
Presented at Riverbank Arts Centre on 2 & 3 November, 2018

We are brought on a journey with The Young King by a narrator, who is seemingly all-knowing. The king basks in his luxury not once questioning at whose expense his fortune came about. It is revealed to him the reality of our world, the food chain as such of his kingdom and he’s shocked at what he finds. The play used lights and sound to really paint a more vivid picture and props were used in a number of creative ways. The cast did a nice job of emerging the audience completely from the very beginning by bringing us through some fun activities before sitting down in front of the stage. Everyone was in their characters and this gave us a sense of being in another world, separate from our everyday lives. ⭐⭐⭐  Jenny Dillon, 16