Galway Youth Theatre’s artsfest double bill

Liam Lawton from GYT’s production of Tusk Tusk.

Liam Lawton from GYT’s production of Tusk Tusk.

GALWAY YOUTH Theatre has consistently impressed at the Galway Arts Festival over the past number of years, so there should be plenty of interest in its two productions for this year - Polly Stenham’s Tusk Tusk and Mark Ravenhill’s Citizenship.

Polly Stenham exploded onto the English theatre scene in 2007 with her award-winning debut play, That Face, written when she was just 19, which premiered at the Royal Court.

The Daily Telegraph’s eminent critic Charles Spencer hailed it as “one of the most astonishing debuts” he had seen in 30 years of play reviewing. The play received the 2007 Best New Play Theatrical Management Award and Critics Circle Most Promising New Playwright Award.

Tusk Tusk, first staged last year, again at the Royal Court, confirmed the immense promise shown by Stenham’s debut and it garnered further enthusiastic reviews. GYT’s production has the distinction of being the play’s Irish premiere and it is being given a site-specific staging in a Merchants Road apartment.

“The basic storyline is that the play is set in an apartment in London,” explains Tusk Tusk director Andrew Flynn. “There’s a 16-year-old boy, his 15-year-old sister, and seven-year-old brother who are home alone, there are no parents present.

“The play starts quite light and funny as they enjoy their freedom but as it goes on you start to realise they’re not capable of looking after themselves. The teenage boy in particular, who thinks he’s mature, isn’t capable of looking after a seven-year-old. It’s full of twists and turns and is really well written.”

Flynn went to considerable lengths to find the right actor to play Tusk Tusk’s seven-year-old.

“It was a challenge finding someone to play the youngest brother,” he acknowledges. “We found this kid called Liam Lawton who’s fantastic. I held a series of workshops in the Bunscoil in Colaiste Iognaid, I saw about 60 kids in all and whittled it down from there.

“I had a chat with Liam’s parents first because this isn’t like casting someone in Wizard of Oz as there are some dark themes, but they were keen for Liam to be involved. It’s going really well so far, he’s matching the two teenagers who are played by Josie Carlin and Joe Hanson Shearer.”

GYT’s second festival offering is from another celebrated English playwright, Mark Ravenhill.

“Citizenship is a very funny play about a young boy trying to come to terms with his sexuality,” Flynn explains. “He’s had a dream where he can’t see who he’s kissing and he can’t decide whether he’s gay or not. It’s a funny, edgy, and sharp exploration of a 17-year-old trying to come to terms with his identity. The play was originally commissioned by the National Theatre as part of their Connections programme.”

Citizenship is directed by Niall Cleary and features a cast of 14, including Phelim O’Haolain as the central character, Tom, Katie Stewart, Ailbhe Harding, and Niamh Thornton.

Both Citizenship and Tusk Tusk run throughout the festival from Monday July 12 to Saturday 24 (excluding Sundays ).

Citizenship begins at 1pm daily at Nuns Island Theatre. Audiences for Tusk Tusk assemble at 5.15pm each day at Bar 8 on the Docks and are then brought to the apartment where the play is performed. Early booking is advisable as numbers are limited.

Tickets are available from the festival box office, Galway Tourist Office, Forster Street, and www.galwayartsfestival.com

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