Meath-based Kaleidoscope Youth Theatre is presenting a play with a theme of youth mental health - 'Sinead, Sinead, Don't Be Afraid' - at the Venue Theatre, Ratoath, at the weekend.
Sinead is afraid of her future and longing to revisit parts of her idyllic past. Her friends have told her it's time to move on from Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh and get the hell on with growing up. As she attempts to let go of her childhood and embrace her adolescence, she grapples with the colourful spectrum of her emotions personified.
We meet Anger, Blame, Fear, Sadness, Memory, Hope and Humiliation (and versions of her younger self) as they join her on stage throughout her journey; never afraid to let their voices be heard, boldly interrupting, and at times, taking over until she finds the strength to overpower them and take back the moment.
Sinead is caught between two tides of mentality - one of courage, the other of fear - all the while trying to stay afloat on the multi-coloured rollercoater journey of being a 'normal' teenager.
Sinead is all of us, some of us, one of us, or the lucky none of us. She's afraid she'll forget how to play. She's afraid she'll crash the car or marry the wrong person. She's afraid that when she grows up, she'll still be afraid."
*Sinead is a fictional character who happens to share the same name as one of our actors. She characterises a collaboration of the many colourful contributions made by each member of Kaleidoscope Youth Theatre, expressed at different points during the time it took to devise this play.
The cast is Patrick MacDonald, Lara Kumar, Emily Brunnock, Leah Fitzpatrick, Rhia O'Hagan, Faye Dunlop, Martynas Karim Hamza, Laura Brunnock, Sean McGivern, Caitriona MacDonald, Rionach Lennon, Brenda Farren, Lola Carbayo, Millie McGivern, Nicole Moran, and Sinead Naughton.
Kaleidoscope Youth Theatre is a 16-strong group of budding actors and theatre-makers. Jennifer Lee completed her masters degree in theatre performance (TCD) in 2010 and formed Kaleidoscope Youth Theatre in 2015 having previously set up an Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Leixlip. She lives in Summerhill with her husband and two sons.
Every 12-18 months the children (currently age 8 - 17 years) decide on a topic that is relevant and important to them personally. This year's topic of choice is Youth Mental Health. Sinead, Sinead, Don't Be Afraid is the result of 14 months collaborative work between Jennifer and the group of 16 kids.
"We meet once per week, and in between training workshops, trips to see professional plays and using drama to fundraise for charity, we make a self-devised and edgy and theatre piece," Jennifer explains.
This piece is visually stunning, yet simple in the way it approaches the complex and multi-layered subject of mental health from the child's perspective. It uses the various elements of theatre such as mime, narrative, poetry, dance-like movement, film and synchrony to address issues such as stress, anxiety, information overload, panic attacks, eating disorders, LGBT orientation and suicidal thoughts in young people. Basic and yet highly effective props are used to demonstrate the character's feelings (for example, using brightly coloured helium balloons to symbolise elevation or elation, and grey/black carbon-dioxide-filled balloons to symbolise the opposite; deflation or feelings of misery.) And the three-act play itself fills in everything in between.
'Sinead, Sinead' explores a world where young people's spiralling emotions can negatively affect the way they interact and feel, the way they perform and communicate to others, and ultimately, the decisions they might make. It is a highly relevant subject today, and in some ways, a natural sequel to our previous show around the vulnerability of young people and the power of technology.
"I feel we could not have made this play 12 months ago," Jennifer says. " The fact that we are able to now comfortably and safely integrate such an important issue through the medium of youth theatre is a huge achievement for me personally. Rearing two boys of my own I find I used to worry more than I do about this issue; safe-guarding their mental health.
"This play means a lot to a lot of people. Sinead is one or many parts of all of us. The play offers a non-invasive insight into the complexities and fragility of youth and their mental health. We have personified eight of Sinead's emotions as real-life child actors on stage. They move around, create shadows, interrupt, disappear and reappear continuously, and what they have to say is worth hearing. In the end, Sinead proves, with the help of Hope, Memory and Reason, as well as her younger self, that she can overcome their negative power and put them back in their rightful place within her to she can view the elevation of colour around her, even in her darkest of moments."
'Sinead, Sinead, Don't Be Afraid'
Performed and Devised by Kaleidoscope Youth Theatre
Directed and Co-Devised by Jennifer Lee
Lighting by Damien Byrne
Sound design by Jennifer Lee
The Venue Theatre,
Sat 30th March, 7.30pm.
Suitable for ages 7 - 97 years!
Tickets €15 each available at www.venuetheatre.ie or phone (01) 6895600