Eternal Youth, one of the plays that opened the Galway Theatre Festival this weekend is one of a kind.
Written by female playwright, Niamh Ryan, it has already had its success in America, captivatingarge audiences of all ages.
The play is written almost entirely in verse, however the breaks only remind us of how young and inexperienced these characters are.
One minute we are reading fairytales and the next we are expected to make life altering decisions. Decisions that will determine if our future is a successful one of not. Eternal Youth was a stark reminder of the pressure and stress that goes hand in hand with the Leaving Certificate, one that we often forget as adults as our daily lives become filled with pressures of work or college. Yet, at the age of 17 this is probably the first time we are treated as adults and the first time we have to deal with stress.
Niamh Ryan and Denis Haugh capture perfectly the uncertainty that faces Ireland’s teenagers when completing school. The separation of friendships that naturally happens can cause a sense of abandonment in young people. The social expectations and fear of failure is crushing for young people and the stigma attached to mental health in Ireland may stop them from seeking help.
The audience are immediately transported to the whimsical fairy-tale land of Neverland through the set as the foliage and fairy lights enclosed the audience into the space. The lighting (Kevin Murphy) and set created an eerie feeling in the space as the audience willingly wanted to go to Neverland at the opening of the play but would have pleaded for Pan to not return at the closing.
Today teenagers are faced with the pressure of finding a vessel that will propel them onto a career. Unfortunately, the only vessel that seems to be talked about is university. Previous generations had apprenticeships and a trade was as highly regarded as a degree. Ryan brilliantly questions the pressures put on young people and through using comedy creates a safe space within theatre to approach the topic of mental health.
Review by Grace Byrne