This year National Youth Theatre, director Niall Cleary and playwright Eimear Hussey worked with an ensemble of sixteen young actors and four young designers from youth theatres across Ireland over a period of eighteen months to create a new play about dance, care, and agency. The ensemble’s 2023 production, ‘Like We Were Born to Move’ was performed on the Peacock Stage at the Abbey Theatre.
How did you get involved in the National Youth Theatre?
I found out about the National Youth Theatre auditions through my Youth Theatre in Kildare. Ready to take this on, I went to the website where I found a myriad of information about the application process including a vlog documenting the whole experience that gave me a good insight into this opportunity.
Tell us about the audition process
The audition process was stimulating and fun, as it was workshop based. As an actor, you expect to walk into a room full of professionals who may be expecting perfection from you, where you have practised and dissected your audition pieces, but it was not like that. It felt scary doing an audition that I had not traditionally prepared for. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the experience of working with other young people from various youth theatres. In fact it felt just like I was at a workshop at my own youth theatre. Now that I am part of NYT, I now understand that this was done intentionally to allow you to enter this experience as yourself, which is the most important thing.
Tell us about your journey through the NYT process and rehearsals
The first 2 residentials were in Maynooth. They were a little awkward and daunting. I knew a few people that I had meet during the audition process but the thought of spending a year working with strangers was something so distant and something I could not fathom. We spent a week with people who were total strangers but who quickly became like a family in the blink of an eye. At the end of the first residential we were all ugly crying and melancholic when going home. We spent an incredible amount of time living together, working together and growing together.
To be completely honest at certain times, you really needed your space but no matter what, you knew everyone was there to support you. From our director (Niall Cleary) to assistant director and National Program coordinator (Rebecca Feely), choreographer (Olwyn Lyons), writer (Eimear Hussey), and our incredible welfare team coordinated by Cathal Thornton and everyone in between. It got busier and more hectic as the weeks progressed.
When a draft of the script was added, we got a glimpse into what could be achieved. The design team spent time creating a phantom sketch of the play. Everything slowly but surely came together, in the final month we rehearsed in Cork for three weeks then back to Maynooth for the last two weeks.
How has it felt performing on the Peacock Stage at the Abbey Theatre?
The fact that you are on the stage of the National Theatre in Ireland fills you with pride and euphoria. Working on a project for a year where you pour so much into it to get back something just as auspicious is an experience that I will never forget. Every single one of us loved performing on the Peacock Stage every night. It felt so energising and safe knowing that your ensemble members would never let you fall.
How do you feel that this will influence or encourage you in the future?
NYT gave me the unique experience of working in professional and collaborative environment like the Abbey Theatre with all their amazing staff and strict scheduling. It gave me a good sense of discipline and an insightful look into the world of theatre. It felt like an opportunity to make my dreams come true and peer into a possible future where theatre is at the forefront of my life. It encouraged me and strengthened my love for theatre to continue to pursue it.
Would you encourage other young people to get involved in youth theatre and in particular the NYT?
I would 110% recommend youth theatre to anyone who loves theatre and wants to meet liked-minded people to share in that and have fun. I would recommend NYT to those who want to pursue theatre and everything it has to offer in their future, you don’t have to have much experience but a passion to pursue and persevere. NYT is intense and a big commitment that will and does pay off in the end. The highs are high and the lows are not that low, when there are a lot of people supporting you every step of the way. This was an unforgettable experience and I will always carry it around with me forever.