Galway Youth Theatre presents Mark Ravenhill's 'Citizenship' as part of Galway Arts Festival, 2010.

Galway Youth Theatre presents Mark Ravenhill's 'Citizenship' as part of Galway Arts Festival, 2010.

Galway Youth Theatre presents Mark Ravenhill's 'Citizenship' as part of Galway Arts Festival, 2010.

Galway Youth Theatre presents Mark Ravenhill's 'Citizenship' as part of Galway Arts Festival, 2010.

Towards the end of Mark Ravenhill’s Citizenship, a plastic doll hangs on the background wall of the stage. A childlike voiceover tells us that Mommy and Daddy slept together that night and that she is the result. She continues to tell us the end of the story we have just watched unfold. It is a beautiful and poignant summing up on the consequences of youth’s natural folly. The happy little voice explains that they no longer speak to each other now.

Mommy is Amy and Daddy is Tom and theirs is the story of teenage love and angst in a 21st century MySpace, chatroom context where social issues are addressed and dysfunctional behaviour treated by social workers. One of Amy’s friends is GYT present 'Citizenship' as part of Galway Arts Festival 2010.on the plastic doll programme that was designed in Britain to enlighten would be teenage mothers on the responsibilities of motherhood. Gay Gary played as an unflappable waster by Kevin McNamara smokes reefers but he’s not gay. Tom is confused about his sexuality; he likes Amy but he’s not sure if it is her or a man who kisses him in his recurrent dream.

Around these characters and issues, there’s an ensemble of friends that serve to support and bully Tom and Amy. Compositing the intensity and cravings of teenagers on the verge of discovering sex and sexuality with developing friendships, dealing with peer pressure and social disadvantage, Ravenhill’s treatment is finger-on-the-pulse enlightening and non-didactic. One of Amy’s friends asking after her says, “We heard you cut yourself again. Are you all right?” This remark is thrown as a support in a non-conditional acceptance of the world these teenagers inhabit.

Galway Youth Theatre, under the direction of Niall Cleary, graft the play onto an Irish Leaving Cert. bunch of kids, and it’s a stunningly successful production. Cleary and cast capture Ravenhill’s eagle eyed observations on the complexities of teenage-hood, teasing out the minefield of social and sexual mores inherent in their condition, capitalising on the humour (of which there is plenty) without ever sacrificing the play’s central focus on teenagers in crisis in transit to adulthood.

Felim O’hAolain’s performance as Tom is first rate, capturing every nuance of his character’s predicament as a young lad trying to come to terms with who he is and how he feels. Katie Steward as Amy gives a credible and cool performance of a vulnerable girl who tries to believe in and practice the positive affirmations she learns in therapy. The supporting cast excel as the peer group bunch that incite, tease and taunt Tom and Amy, moving the story forward and forcing Tom, in particular, to face his feelings. Cleary’s direction is tight and subtle eliciting fantastic performances from his cast. The bathos, humour and frankness of the writing are captured in what comes across as a realistic portrayal that relies little on high drama.

The action takes place on a simple set with a few square boxes against a black galvanised backdrop, giving the impression of a school yard, and facilitates easy manipulation of the stage by the twelve strong cast who inhabit it. Ciaran O’Melia’s lighting is simple, straightforward and effective and Ciara Brady’s white shorts over gold leggings, hoodies, tea shirts and jeans costume ensembles cloth their subjects in recognisable aptness. A great production that is thorough in all aspects.

Breda Shannon is a freelance writer and reviews books for The Irish Examiner.

  • Review
  • Theatre

Citizenship by Mark Ravenhill

12 - 24 July, 2010

Produced by Galway Youth Theatre
In Nun's Island Theatre

Directed by Niall Cleary

Set Design: Andrew Flynn

Lighting Design: Ciaran O’Melia

Musical Arrangement: Carl Kennedy

With: Felim O’hAolain, Katie Steward, Kevin McNamara, Conor O’Grady, Aibhe Harding, Clair Howley, Niamh Butler Thorton, Jojo Hynes, Chris Cleary, Colm Ward, Enna O’Dowd, and Maria Lopez.

Presented as part of Galway Arts Festival 2010