A CORK teenager is on the stage of the Peacock at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin this week as one of the cast of a play produced by the National Youth Theatre.
Olwyn O’Donoghue Patterson, 17, was selected to perform in Ask Too Much Of Me, written by Dylan Coburn Gray and directed by his mother, Veronica Coburn, who are both alumni of the National Youth Theatre.
The play, set in a squat in Dublin in 2018, is about young people who have a lot of questions and few answers. Provocative in places, the production has an ensemble cast of 16. Some of the characters are involved in campaigning to repeal the 8th amendment.
Olwyn is from the Glanmire area and will be going into sixth year at Colaiste an Phiarsaigh in September. She did drama throughout primary school and took “an unintentional break” until her fourth year at secondary school.
What attracted her to acting?
“All my friends were doing it and my mom has studied drama as well. I kind of caught the acting bug from my family. My sisters are all doing drama too.
“I kind of missed it in secondary school so I decided to join Activate Youth Theatre in Blackpool. I love it. With Activate, we work a lot on creating our own pieces. It’s not like a stage school where you get taught. We get to explore our own creativity and ideas and we do productions.”
Olwyn will continue acting during her Leaving Certificate year “as it’s a nice break from studying and it’s time with friends”.
As to whether she would consider a career in theatre, Olwyn is not under any illusions.
“We all know about the life of the struggling artist. I have other interests such as maths. My mom is a maths teacher in the school I go to. I’d be fairly good at maths. I’m looking at everything. There are so many options.
“I’d definitely consider doing drama studies at UCC. I’m looking at a business degree somewhere. It’s good to have the creative and academic sides.”
At Activate Youth Theatre, Olwyn and the other members were encouraged to apply to the National Youth Theatre, which is an initiative of Youth Theatre Ireland.
“An audition was held in Cork. It was a workshop and it was very relaxed. There wasn’t any pressure. They were getting to know us. From that, there was a call back. Some of us were selected from Munster and were brought to Dublin.
“You could see who you were up against. But it wasn’t like fighting for a place. Everyone was still very relaxed. Then, I got the call back to say I had a place.”
Olywn plays a character called Olivia.
“I believe we are similar characters in the way we’re both a little scared of new experiences. But she eventually grows in confidence.”
Initially nervous about moving to Dublin for the summer, Olwyn is now comfortable there. She was intimidated about meeting the new people that are now a part of her life.
“We’ve all grown in confidence and have become friends.
“We’re sharing a house with four people to a bedroom. We get on really well. It can be quite intense so it’s important that we take time out to ourselves.”
Playwright Dylan has been attending rehearsals.
“He’s very much involved in the process. We’re lucky to get to work with him.
“I love seeing new work by young people. You can go and see Shakespeare and it’s often amazing. But it’s nice to see new theatre by friends and people the same age as you.
“Graffiti Theatre, as part of its ‘Fighting Words’ programme, runs the young playwrights’ programme. I got to see a friend in a play written by a young person. I just thought it was so cool.”
Olywn’s character inAsk Too Much Of Me arrives into the squat.
“She is coming to terms with this almost anarchist alien environment. The characters have their politics and opinions and they clash. Faith is a central theme. A few of the characters are quite religious. But it’s not even about religion. It’s about faith in each other.”
What is appealing about the play is that it’s humorous, says Olwyn.
“I know when my friends come to see it, they will laugh. There are also serious moments and heartfelt messages. It’s a nice balance. The central message is about supporting one another, loving each other and being decent people.
“My character hears people saying things she never heard before. I didn’t even know what anarchy meant until I joined the National Youth Theatre. I’m being exposed to new information.”
The talented ensemble cast comes from all over Ireland. The National Youth Theatre first went into production in 1983. It’s an opportunity to showcase youth theatre with a cast of young people from youth theatres across the country, working with professional creative teams.
Ask Too Much Of Me is at the Peacock Stage at the Abbey Theatre until August 24.