An Article About A Theatre Festival and Breaking Gender Norms.

You might have been wondering why I’ve been AWOL for so long. Well hi, I’m back because I finally have something worth writing about. And if you’re wondering whether I am writing this out of my own will or because it’s for one of the credits I’m taking, take a wild guess.


Now that that’s out of the way.


I am currently on Erasmus at Trinity College in Dublin, an underrated haven for the arts. Buskers on the streets every day of the week, graffiti which belong at the Louvre colouring the grey limestone buildings, a hub for tattoo artistry, street performers – from dancers to fire shows. Yeah, despite the dull weather, there is really never a dull moment in the streets of Dublin. What is of most interest to me, being a theatre student, is of course, theatre. There are theatres everywhere here and the one on campus is one of the most popular ones as it is dedicated to Irish playwright, novelist and TCD alumnus, Samuel Beckett. This is the same theatre in which the Debut Festival annually takes place.


Before I came to Trinity I had no idea what Debut was. Soon, my course flung me into the reality of it so I thought I’d be doing anyone who’s thinking of studying theatre here a service by giving you a brief crash course.



Debut 101: What is it? What do I do? Wait, we’re being graded on this?


Debut is a four-week long festival which takes place twice a year. Each week, two different pieces are shown three times a week. The best part? All the performances are put up by theatre students. Everything from directing, light, set and costume design, to front of house duty. The final year Advanced Directing and Design students are responsible for larger roles such as directing and set design. Spots for performing are open to students from all years. For me, as a second-year student, it was part of my Theatre Management class, so I took up a role in guest-writing and front of house, which got me into the shows for free! (U hekk kif nghidu ahna il-Maltin: tajjeb ghax tajjeb, tajjeb ghax b’xejn!)


I got the opportunity to watch four different shows, but my favourite had to be the classic Romeo and Juliet, directed by Benedict Esdale. Various reasons contributed to this seemingly over-used play becoming my fav. First off, the lighting was STUNNING, the beats were SICK, the fog was EERIE and also it (*it also) reminded me of Leonardo Di Caprio and that made me happy  <3 However. You guys. Th actor cast to play the iconic role of Mercutio was A GIRL. It’s safe to say I lost it when a cool gal in a sparkling, golden one-piece slayed the stage as the BADASS Mercutio. I was so blown away I had to get interviews with both the director and the actor asking What, Why and How.  G R L P W R.


One of the first questions I asked the director, was why Romeo and Juliet of all plays? He said he wanted a challenge. And this play was most certainly a challenge. As a director, he had to pick and choose the most essential parts of the story because the performance couldn’t be longer than an hour. This is why he decided to do away with most of the adult characters in the original text and kept only the youngins, therefore having to bring some of them back as ghosts doing spooky things like delivering letters to and from dramatic, sexually-frustrated teenagers ☺ He also added to the challenge in (*with) his choice to keep Shakespearean English rather than modern language.  From an audience’s pov, I think this worked beautifully in juxtaposition with the light and costume choices which created a bold, bright and modern aesthetic (yes I used that word, sue me) and the music.



When I asked why he chose actor Alice Murphy to play Mercutio he responded by telling me that he was not really concerned with the gender of the actor when casting but more so finding someone who embodied the agile, wild and engaging nature of the character. Which worked out great for Alice because she admitted to me that despite having read for Juliet in her audition, she really wanted to play Mercutio but never told her director about it. Thankfully Esdale broke out of the norm and recognized the passion Alice had which resulted in an excellent performance!


So at this stage, I myself am wondering what the point of this article is. Here’s what matters the most:


  1. Debut is a fantastic outlet given to theatre students at TCD by the Theatre faculty through which they are given the opportunity to explore and play with different fields in (*of) theatre.
  2. If you are a student who is in anyway involved, or will be involved in it don’t be scared!! It’s actually such a fun experience from which you learn a lot, even through the tiniest of roles, like front of house.
  3. Girls are capable of playing roles in theatre which are traditionally assigned to men and they can perform just as well and with just as much passion and COME THROUGH
  4. Therefore girls, don’t be afraid of going for male roles!
  5. Directors who value talent and passion over gender are on the way don’t worry!!!


Thank you to my readers and to Benedict Esdale and Alice Murphy for contributing to this article <3

Sarah Amato

This one time I was playing Guess Who with a class of foreign beginner students and they asked me to have a turn so I did. I thought I was being witty and to describe Lady Gaga I said "she's crazy!" but one of my students was wittier and with a straight face he said "it's you."

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