Press release : The X-Factory

On December 20th students from three local schools; Salesians Secondary School, Scoil Carmel and St. Clements will take to the stage for the first time in Mary Immaculate College, to showcase their talents in The X-Factory by Tom Swift, a play that promises an entertaining evening of music, film, dance and comedy.   This is a multi-media, intercultural performance featuring young people from around the globe who now call Limerick home.  It is the first public show from the Shoulder to Shoulder project, a County Council initiative which focuses on the Arts as a way of fostering integration.  As Joan MacKernan, the County Arts Officer explains, “this initiative demonstrates the power of the Arts to break down barriers, allowing us learn about each others traditions and stories.  Through the Arts we recognise the common bonds that we all share, after all every culture has their own version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

It is appropriate then that the X-Factory is a play with a universal theme, a light hearted modern day look at the timeless Cinderella, rags to riches story.  It is a story which has lent itself to retelling countless times, engaging audiences across the world since originating in China over a thousand years ago.  In this version we meet Kylie, a young girl who like so many dreams of becoming a TV talent show star and escaping humdrum family life.  When she meets the mysterious reality TV host Kidd Young Jr, offering fame and fortune, Kylie thinks her dream has come true. With Kidd’s help Kylie assumes the alter-ego “Cindy” and before you know it she’s part of the X-Factory celebrity making machine. But things get strange when Kidd forces Kylie to take part in “Get This Celebrity Out of Here”, a reality show where stars live with ordinary families, only this time it’s her own!  Torn between fame and family - who will be the winner?

For the Shoulder to Shoulder organisers, including the local migrant support organisation Doras Luimni, it is hoped that the young people of Limerick City and County will be the ultimate winners.  The young cast who are performing in the play have no previous arts training and the X-Factory represents the culmination of months of hard work learning new skills.  It is a big step for them to now publicly represent their schools and their community but also a big step for each of them as individuals.  As Fiona Quinn, the director of the Friars Gate Theatre Education and Outreach programme comments, “It is so important that our young people have the confidence and skills to express themselves.  Young people who are given a creative outlet reap the rewards in so many ways, the Arts have a proven positive impact on self-esteem, social skills, and academic performance.  This why Youth Arts are so important.  They help young people understand the importance of commitment and discipline, why excellence is worth striving for, they show young people what hard work can achieve.”  While Fiona Quinn’s primary concern is for her youth theatre members to develop these qualities within and for themselves she is aware that these are the very qualities that propel young people forward, the qualities that universities and employers are looking for too.

These benefits are also recognised by Mary Carroll, a teacher in Scoil Carmel who describes the drama workshops as “a great success” , saying that from the outset the drama was met with, ‘enthusiasm and enjoyment’. Mary Carroll also notes that the classes had an impact beyond entertainment, one that enriched both the school community and the individuals, adding, “the participating students gained in confidence while at the same time enhancing their social and language skills.”  The positive impact of  active engagement with the Arts is echoed by Pat Talty from St Clements College, “It is a brilliant alternative to English lessons where they have to sit down and just open a book.”

The performance in Mary Immaculate College this month is only the beginning of what is envisaged as the growth of a vibrant intercultural arts scene in Limerick. The Shoulder to Shoulder project is designed to be a sustainable project that will ultimately result in integrated arts groups taking ownership of the production of innovative, intercultural art reflecting the creativity and diversity of our local communities.  The scheme represents a collaborative approach to integration across the city and county with support coming not only from the County Council but also Friars Gate Theatre, Doras Luimni and the European Union. 

A new, integrated youth theatre group will be starting in January, providing a space where young people from different cultural backgrounds can share their stories, learn about different traditions and create art which is both exciting and inclusive. This ambitious  vision for the Arts in Limerick looks to create connections across art forms building opportunities not only for participation but also creating new audiences for arts venues in the city and county.  The X-Factory performance alone will feature song, dance, film and theatre.

Information about the upcoming youth theatre opportunity will be available on the night and all are welcome to come along to the Halla in Mary Immaculate College on Tuesday 20th December to share in the experience.  To book tickets or for more information you can contact Friars’ Gate Theatre on 063 98727.