We’ve been Watching The Nation OnStage

We’ve been Watching The Nation OnStage

Watching The Nation OnStage


Watching The Nation OnStage was designed so that young people and leaders from across Dublin City could engage with the 2016 Centenary Programme and explore artistic responses to the centenary and the ideas and questions it invoked.


On Sunday April 10th, 23 young people aged 13-20 and 6 leaders from 4 youth theatres and 2 youth groups came together for a day-long workshop.

They explored: the role of the critic; the elements of production; how a critic prepares to see a production; key themes and questions arising from the 2016 Centenary Programme.

Key questions included:

What Does 1916/2016 Mean To Me?

What Themes Or Idea Would We Expect To See In Theatre About 1916/2016?

What Are The Elements Of A Theatre Production?


 April to November

Over the six -month period, the young people attended theatre performances that explored themes associated with 1916/2016.

These included:

 Northern Star – Rough Magic TC – Project Arts Centre 

The Patriot GameLyric Theatre 

Town Is Dead – Peacock Theatre 

Rising – Dublin Youth Theatre – Peacock Theatre 

The Circus Animals Desertion – Brokentalkers – Project Dublin Theatre Festival 

It’s Not Over – TheatreCLUB – Samuel Beckett Theatre / Dublin Theatre Festival

Beyond The Barricades – ANU Dublin Bus Tour

The Ireland Trilogy – TheatreCLUB – Peacock Theatre 

Rebel Rebel – ANU Productions 


The project culminated with a half -day workshop for youth theatre members and leaders to unpack their experience of theatre productions within the Centenary Programme; explore the young peoples’ responses to key theatre productions they have seen


Here the participants explored what they felt the theatre productions said about Ireland and whether they believed the programming reflected their experience of Ireland.



This dedicated WordPress blog was created to platform the critical responses of the participants. With the support of NAYD staff and professional theatre critic and blogger Saoirse Anton, the participants were given editorial support to create critical responses of a high standard.



  • 107 young people saw 9 separate productions as part of the Centenary Programme and other related performances. These included revivals of canonical work as well as work made by other young people, site specific and those that challenged the established narrative of 1916.
  • 90% of the participants said that they would definitely be encouraged to see more theatre as a result of the project.

Engagement with Artform/ 1916

  • Overall the young people found the work to be ‘interesting’ and posed many questions about the narrative around 1916.
  • Some felt that some of the work they saw – It’s Not Over – TheatreCLUB, really challenged the legacy of 1916.
  • Others felt that engaging with Beyond The Barricades – ANU Dublin Bus Tour really helped them experience what it must have been like to be there when events unfolded over Easter 1916. They felt that that they could really understand what happened.
  • While a production such as Town Is Dead didn’t obviously address themes associated with 1916,it more subtlety asked questions about Irish Identity and our relationship with Great Britain over the last 40 years.

You can listen to some thoughts on Town is Dead here


  • The groups that participated fully in the programme got to see high quality productions on the themes on 1916. They were further able to demonstrate their engagement, understanding and expressed their own critical responses to the work through the workshop and the written blog.
  • Groups from different parts of the city came together and had a fun and informative experience.
Members of Dublin Youth Theatre, Complex Youth Theatre and St. Andrew’s Resource Centre who were Watching The NationOnStage in 2016. Photo Credit: Alan King NAYD

Alan King

NAYD Youth Theatre Officer

Project Co-ordinator.




A Review of Tom Murphy’s The Patriot Game – by Kit Geraghty

A Review of Tom Murphy’s The Patriot Game – by Kit Geraghty


The Patriot Game by Tom Murphy Photo Credit : Lyric Theatre

30-04-2016 – The Lyric Theatre

Review of The Patriot Game

The Lyric Drama Studio

This is a very historical show about the leaders of the Easter Rising in the lead-up to and during the Rising itself. We get a glimpse at all the squabbles between them, the state of the country before the Rising, the rule of Britain over Ireland before the Rising and finally, the siege of the GPO and conditions inside. The play is interested in asking whether The Rising really achieved anything and what the real motives of the rebels were.

This writer of this play is Tom Murphy, it was originally commissioned by the BBC in 1965 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Rising, it was scrapped and eventually a stage adaptation was performed in 1991 on the Peacock Theatre. This particular production is performed in Belfast, which I find very interesting as Northern Ireland’s views on The Easter Rising can be very different from the usual views we hear in most of the Republic. I think this was a good chance to have a production really question the heroism of the rebels.

The Patriot Game by Tom Murphy Photo Credit: Lyric Theatre

This show has a 22 person cast: 12 members of an ensemble, two narrators, the seven rebels and Eoin MacNeill. The eight main characters all perform their parts well, although I feel that they don’t add much to the characters that isn’t evident in the script. I think that it is difficult whenever a play has such established characters as the actors haven’t got much opportunity to change who they are or put their own spin on them; Padraig Pearse was a real person and everyone knows what he was like, there’s no room for improvisation. The two Narrators do a fantastic job, they are played by Shannon McNeice and Abigail Parkinson. The Narrators always make the story clear while also being funny and entertaining, yet always stepping back so as not to overshadow the main cast. The ensemble are in many ways the life of the show; they are always working together to take apart and build the set, slipping in and out of playing people at a funeral, the rich aristocracy, and many of the rebels who helped during the Rising. The ensemble are choreographed by David Calvert and this is one of my favourite aspects of the performance.

The Patriot Game by Tom Murphy Credit: Lyric Theatre website

I very much enjoy the staging of this piece; it uses a square stage with an equal number of seats on both sides. The performance allows everyone to see what is going on, making the whole play seem very open. The set is minimalistic, a clear space in the middle with a raised platform on either side, and with the ensemble moving boxes to set up a scene. Despite this simplicity, the set works very well, allowing seamless transitions between massively different locations.

This show sticks very close to the historical facts, playing out events we all know about with characters we’re all familiar with, this can cause it to feel a bit dull, never really saying anything new or interesting. Even though the play seems to try to discuss the morality of the motives of the characters, in the end it offers no new real insight to the events of The Easter Rising. That said, it is still very informative if taken as a lesson in History, it reminds me of all the pieces behind The Rising that I had forgotten about while also teaching me many I never knew about in the first place.

Overall I did enjoy this piece, there are some good performances, interesting staging techniques and I always enjoy looking back over our History. However if you’re looking for a new or exciting perspective on The Easter Rising then there are plays that offer much more to look at.

Kit Geraghty is a member of Dublin Youth Theatre and a participant on NAYD’s Watching The NationOnStage project  

He  will be appearing with the members of Dublin Youth Theatre in Rising at the Peacock Theatre from August 17-20th 

Northern Star – A Review by Kit Geraghty

Northern Star – A Review by Kit Geraghty

In the first in our series of reviews, Kit Geraghty from Dublin Youth Theatre reviews Northern Star by Stewart Parker. It was presented by Rough Magic Theatre Company on May 7th 2016 at Project Arts Centre Dublin. 

This play is about Henry Joy McCracken, a leader of the ‘98 Rebellion. It takes a look at a quiet moment near the end of the life where he is hiding in a derelict house with his lover and their child, following The Battle of Antrim. Throughout the show, Henry has flashbacks to important points in his life. Each of these flashbacks is performed in the style of a different Irish playwright. The writer of this play is Stewart Parker and it was first performed in 1984. This particular production is directed by Lynne Parker, the playwright’s niece. Watching this performance provided me with an interesting contrast to all the 1916 events I’ve seen, and in many ways, learning about a much earlier rebellion was even more meaningful.

As I mentioned before, every flashback to a point in Henry’s life is told from the point of view of a different Irish playwright. These flashbacks help the audience understand how Henry gets to where he is today, while the different styles make sure the audience don’t lose their attention. The main story is very subtly acted and quiet in tone while the flashback sections are often very exciting or different, which provide a nice contrast. The different tones of the flashbacks also help show the mental state of Henry at the different points of the play.


Cast of Northern Star by Stewart Parker. Photo credit: Rough Magic 

The cast of this piece is very diverse, ranging from hammy to subtle and never seeming out of place. The main characters in the house are naturalistic and really capture the tragedy of the situation they’re in. A different actor plays Henry in every flashback and each brings something new and entertaining to the character. I also find it interesting how there are several points where a men are played by women. This allows for some brilliant performances, such as Eleanor Methven as a police captain.

The set looks like the backstage of a theatre, there are various ‘props’, pieces of costume and stage rigs littered about. This not only looks beautiful but is also metaphorically very interesting as the show is about the backstage of history. One piece of costume is a green jacket that keeps getting passed around, whoever wears it is currently playing Henry. This visual cue is very helpful for the audience as they need their full attention to understand the sometimes confusing dialogue and scenes. There are several moments that use lighting to great effect, most of all a scene near the end of the play modelled after Beckett. The Set and Lighting were designed by Zia Holly and were one of my favourite aspects of the show.

I went into this play not knowing too much about the ‘98 Rebellion. My limited knowledge on the source material made it hard to understand at times. This show requires your full attention at all times; the dialogue can be very complex and there are many details that are never explained in full. The audience is expected to know a certain amount about the rebellion and who Henry Joy McCracken is before seeing the performance. These facts aside, I still find this play massively enjoyable. Although many details are missed if you don’t know about the source material, it still works very well as its own story.

Overall I think this is a phenomenal show, it is brilliantly staged, directed and performed. It is very long, running at almost two and a half hours. The play also requires a certain level of knowledge and concentration from the audience, but if you can get past that then it is definitely worth seeing.


Kit Geraghty is a member of Dublin Youth Theatre and a participant on NAYD’s Watching The NationOnStage project  

Watching The Nation OnStage



In 2016, the arts community in Ireland will explore identity and history, our experience of modern Ireland, our response to its past and our potential to shape its future.

Watching the Nation Onstage is a special once-off project from The National Association for Youth Drama to help youth theatres and youth arts groups within the Dublin City Council area to engage with theatre productions within the 2016 Centenary Programme.

The project aims to develop theatre criticism skills within participating groups and provide a space for young people to explore artistic responses to the centenary, and the ideas and questions it evokes.

This project is open to NAYD affiliated / developing youth theatres within the Dublin City Council area and is funded by Dublin City Council.



  • To provide opportunities for youth theatre members to engage with artistic elements of the 2016 Centenary Programme and representations of Ireland’s people, stories, past and future onstage
  • To encourage youth theatre members to respond to specific theatre productions of interest within the Centenary Programmeand voice their own responses
  • To explore the role of the critic with youth theatre members and develop theatre criticism skills
  • To promote young people’s responses to the key theatre productions within the Centenary Programme through a dedicated blog hosting curated reviews
  • To develop the activities of the Dublin Network of Youth Theatres and deepen collaboration


Dublin Youth Theatre

Complex Youth Theatre

Roundabout Youth Theatre

Larkin Youth Theatre

Cois Céim Creative Steps

St. Andrews Resource Centre