Disability Arts Cymru Poetry Competition 2016

Image from Disability Art Cymru. Image by Michele Brenton

Image from Disability Art Cymru. Image by Michele Brenton

As patron of the excellent Disability Arts Cymru, I’m delighted to publicise their call for submissions for the forthcoming Poetry Competition. What follows is from DAC. Please contact them, at the information below, with any queries and submissions:

Poetry Competition  Disability Arts Cymru – closing date July 31st 2016

       Prize money & Digital publication

  We invite you to submit work that is in response to the theme of Austerity and/or Extravagance
Two Prizes of £50 with digital & online publication
Closing date July 31st

We look forward to receiving your submissions of poetry, spread the word and share this with your friends and colleagues.

Theme of Austerity/Extravagance: In the light of recent governmental decisions, which affect many people throughout Wales, we want to reflect the feelings about this through our poetry by DAC members, many of whom have been affected by austerity measures. Contrary to this we are also asking for work in response to the theme of ‘Extravagance’.
Judges are Dominic Williams and Sian Northey

for the entry criterea you can CLICK HERE

or for more info call: 02920 551 040
or email: kate@dacymru.com


‘Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors’ review – Disability Arts Online


Reviews are gold dust. They are even more rare when the publication under the critical lens is a collection of plays. Plays get reviewed in production; they seldom make it into print, never mind being reviewed in print. So owing to this, I am hugely appreciative of the publications who have shown interest and support of my ‘atypical’ and crip’ work by providing critical engagement for my selected plays.

First up is the ever provocative and excellent Disability Arts Online, with a review by  Sonali Shah. I reproduce much of the review here, but you can read the  full text on the website, where DAO readers can find a 30% discount voucher for the collection.

Disability Arts Online: Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors Review July 4 2016 by Sonali Shah.

‘Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors’ is a collection of five unique, but equally powerful, poetic and political pieces of drama composed by the award winning playwright, Kaite O’Reilly. Review by Dr Sonali Shah (University of Glasgow)

O’Reilly’s policy and practice as a writer is to ‘put crips in our scripts’.[…] So with this motto in mind, O’Reilly’s ‘Atypical Plays’ present opportunities for disabled artists to occupy the stage and challenge audiences’ assumptions about disability and difference. The writer works together with her actors in a non-hierarchical and innovative way, continuously and purposefully adapting to each unique movement, to create the five theatrical pieces in this collection: Peeling, The Almond and the Seahorse, In Water I’m Weightless, the 9 Fridas and Cosy.

Written in the 21st Century and from an insider lens, these five plays subvert traditional notions of normalcy and encourage the possibilities of human difference to explore the whirlwind of relationships, emotions, choices and identities that, both construct us and are constructed by us, as we all move through life and try to work out what it is to be human.

These texts portray disabled characters as sexy, active and wilful beings in empowering and provocative stories, cutting against the grain of the trope for most blockbusters of stage and screen, which revolve around medicalisation and normalisation using disabled characters as a metaphor for tragedy, loss or horror.

The first play, peeling, described by the Scotsman as ‘a feminist masterpiece’, is a fine example of meta-theatre that explores themes of war, eugenics, and fertility. Written specifically for a Deaf woman and two disabled women (each strong, witty actors and feisty activists), peeling is a postmodern take on the epic Trojan Women.

Although the three characters – Alfa, Beaty and Coral – are consigned to the chorus, O’Reilly makes them central to this play, revealing their real personalities and hidden truths through vocal cat-fights and heckling matches (interpreted via BSL and audio description) while they wait to play the two minute part they have been awarded in the name of ‘inclusion’.

The Almond and the Seahorse is the second script, and the most structured of them all. Written for a cast of five, it examines the impact of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) for the individual and their slowly fading loved ones. Focusing on two couples (where one partner in each has a diminishing memory) it demonstrates the slow debilitating power of memory loss on present relationships and dreams for the future.

Reading this script evokes a sense of how critical and delicate the human memory is. This is reflected in the words of Dr Falmer (the ambitious neuropsychologist character whose beloved father had TBI) – ‘we should not invest so in such perishable goods’ (p.127). The vibrant clarity of monologue, dialogue and stage directions on the page makes it easy to visualise this play on the stage. Highly affecting, the performed text will undoubtedly give much food for thought for the audiences.

The third play in this collection In Water I am Weightless – is an apt title for exploring the heavy burden disability seems to provoke in society as in water it remains hidden. Written for a cast of six Deaf and disabled actors, and entrenched in crip humour and energy of the Disability Movement, the performance script adopts a monologue and dialogue style to create a mosaic of stories of the realities of living in a disabling society and being seen as ‘vulnerable’ and ‘in need’ by the non-disabled.[…] Performed at Unlimited in London 2012, and inspired by a range of informal conversations with disabled and Deaf citizens, this work is really does put “us” in the slogan “Nothing About Us Without Us”.

The 9 Fridas use the artwork of the disabled Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, as a lens to deconstruct her biography including her changing social positioning in terms of her disabled and feminist identities. The last play, Cosy, is a dark comedy exploring inevitable ageing and death.

Together the five plays make essential reading, both for educational purposes and pleasure. Informed by the Social Model of Disability, they have the potential to enact a kind of activism and a change in public perceptions towards disabled people, previously shaped by negative representations in popular culture. Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors offers an entertaining and poetical insight into what is means to be human.


With thanks to Disability Arts Online. Please check out this essential website – http://disabilityarts.online – an important hub for discussion, reflection and engagement with disability arts and culture.

Atypical Plays Discount code from Oberon books available to DAO readers here

Take inspiration and above all, endure….

I recently spoke with a friend who said she was blocked, jaded, depressed, and unmotivated – and it was not just the results of the EU referendum which had made her feel this way. Her once beloved project was now languishing in a pile of unread research books and unsorted receipts for her tax return. She said she couldn’t understand her lethargy, her lack of interest in a writing career she had worked very hard to establish. I comforted her as best I could, and then sent her a link to the post, below, written soon after I started writing this blog. She said it helped. Just looking at Frank Hurley’s haunting photographs of Antarctica engaged her; they seemed a worthy metaphor for how she was feeling about her writing (and Brexit): stuck, like the ship Endurance, in ice. She suggested I repost it, commenting on how I haven’t written ‘advice’ pieces like this for some time. I explained this was because I had received no response to the posts, so presumed they were of no interest. ‘Put it up again,’ she encouraged me, so I have. Let me know if you would like to see more of this kind of content.

Touched Up no sharpening

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working….

Years ago I wrote a radio play for BBC Radio 3’s then experimental strand, The Wire. Lives Out of Step was set in Antarctica and used actual wild track recorded on the continent from the BBC sound archives. The play juxtaposed excerpts from the letters and diaries of the early Polar explorers with a fictional narrative highlighting the contemporary exploration (and exploitation) of this frozen desert for oil.

During my research, I became consumed not just with Ernest Shackleton’s South, his extraordinary account of making his way back safely – with all his men – from a glorious but disastrous attempt to get to the South Pole, but also Frank Hurley’s haunting photographs of The Endurance, the expedition’s ship, caught fast in the Weddell Sea, eighty five miles from their destination.

Long after the play was broadcast and the project was filed away and all but forgotten, the images lingered on in my mind. I made copies of Hurley’s iconic images and blu-tacked them above my desk, not quite sure why. As someone who makes their living through being creative, I have learnt to trust my often illogical-seeming impulses, knowing the process is sometimes instinctive and the reasoning will come through, eventually. It was only many weeks later when going into my study with a friend that I saw this overly-familar place afresh, with all its superstitious objects and clutter and mountains of capsizing books – and on the wall above my desk a potent visual metaphor of the process of writing. And enduring. And, despite all the odds, surviving.


At risk of inviting hubris, I have to state I do not believe in writer’s block. Like Russian-American director/actor Michael Chekov, I believe that the potential of the imagination is infinite and as such, can be endlessly resourceful. But that doesn’t mean it is easy. It needs to be developed and harnessed, fed and nurtured, alternatively shaped and let grow wild.

In my interactions with writers experiencing this ‘block’, it has inevitably been caused by several possibilities, some of which I list, below:

Tiredness. We need to rest and feed our imaginations just as we have to rest and feed our physical bodies. After a period of intense activity, our energy and stores are depleted, so we need to input as well as output. But before I start trying to stoke the fire of my imagination with further fuel, I rest it by having a day looking…. at a horizon, whether seascape, landscape, or cityscape; at art (my personal favourite is to sit in the cool, dimly-lit environment of Rothko’s gallery at the Tate); at a huge cinema screen; at some other vista which seems to satisfy my hunger for seeing and absorbing. Find your own panacea, but be truthful in how long you need to rest. It is possible to rest for all of your creative life.

Research. Or lack of. The one common criticism I’ve heard from directors working with new writing is they feel playwrights don’t research their characters or the world of their play enough. I’ve also found when mentoring writers who are writing naturalistically, if they have come to an apparently insurmountable block and have begun to doubt themselves, the solution invariably lies in the work, as that is where the problem is, not in the writer. A few choice questions about the rules of the world, or the needs, motivations, or backstories of the characters often illicit a loosening of the obstacle, a thawing of the ice, with fresh material to pursue.

But this research needs to be carefully handled. Chekov warns: “Dry reasoning kills your imagination. The more you probe with your analytical mind, the more silent become your feelings, the weaker your will and the poorer your chances for inspiration.”

Chekov’s advice is to actors and embodied imagination, and so needs to be adapted for use by writers, but the overall sentiment holds true.

I think we need to keep juice in our work, especially during the dehydrating process of revising and rewriting. We mustn’t cook it so dry our work becomes unappetising or inedible. It’s wise to leave the work alone for a while when the material becomes too familiar, as we all know familiarity breeds contempt.

But most of all, my advice to writers is never give up.

Shackleton and his men were assumed dead, lost at sea or in the Antarctic wilderness…

Take inspiration, and above all, endure.


For Frank Hurley’s photographs and Ernest Shackleton’s memoir, see links below:




Being Atypical at London’s Southbank Centre, 6th September 2016




I love a good chat, so am delighted to confirm I’ll be in conversation on 6th September at Southbank Centre, with the London launch of my selected plays Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors. 

The event is part of  the Unlimited Festival 6-11 September 2016: “a festival of theatre, dance, music, literature, comedy and visual arts that celebrates difference with a spirit of artistic adventure, honesty and humour.”

The selected plays, published by Oberon books, gather together many of my performance texts around difference and disability, and have been getting some lovely responses:

‘An invaluable and long over-due collection of untold stories that deserve to take centre stage.’  Lyn Gardner, Guardian

‘Kaite O’Reilly is a poet of the human condition, a singer of temporal lapses, gaps, translations, missed connections and joyful vibrancy. The performance texts collected here show depth, pain and pleasure. They squeeze the reader, asking her to feel a human touch on her own skin, in her flesh, in the nervous system: this is work that reaches out, and demands that we feel sensations in response. You will be moved.’                                           Petra Kuppers. Professor, University of Michigan, and artistic director of The Olympias

The collection includes two Unlimited Commissions: the 2012 In Water I’m Weightless, produced by National Theatre Wales and directed by John E McGrath (who also writes the foreword), and Cosy, which premiered earlier this year, directed by Phillip Zarrilli for The Llanarth Group/Wales Millennium Centre, supported by Unlimited. I’ve included some of my earlier texts, including peeling (originally produced by Graeae Theatre Company 2002/03), The Almond and the Seahorse (2008), and the 9 Fridas, after Frida Kahlo. The latter has yet to be produced in English, but I’ll be heading to Taipei and Hong Kong this autumn, when the Mandarin production for the 2014 Taipei Arts Festival is remounted for the Black Box Festival at Hong Kong Repertory Theatre.

I feel immensely lucky that I have these Autumn platforms to talk about diversity and difference. As the late, much missed Jo Cox stated in her parliamentary maiden speech thirteen months ago, we have more in common than that which divides us.

Links and further information:







20 Questions…. Mathilde Lopez

Continuing my series of short interviews with writers, choreographers, burlesque artists, poets, performers, and everything between… it’s with great delight I welcome director Mathilde Lopez to 20 questions….

Mathilde Lopez

Mathilde Lopez

Mathilde Lopez is August 012 Artistic Director. She trained at Central Saint Martins in Performance Design, has a Master in Theatre Directing from Birkbeck College and was a founding member of National Theatre Wales with whom she still regularly works. She also teaches at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Directing credits include: WISE (August 012/Cardiff University), CYRANO development (August 012), ROBERTO ZUCCO (August 012/Chapter), TONYPANDEMONIUM (National Theatre Wales) CALIGULA (August 012/Chapter), WHO KILLED THE ELEPHANT? (August 012/James Tyson), PORNOGRAPHY (Waking Exploits/Chapter and touring), MAN ON THE MOON (George Orange/Wales Millennium Centre and touring), DE GABAY development week I and II (National Theatre Wales/Gulbenkian Foundation), SERIOUS MONEY (Waking Exploits/Chapter), CROSSWIRED (East London Dance/Barbican Centre), CIEN AÑOS DE SOLEDAD (London/Prague), YVONNE, PRINCESS OF BURGUNDY (Hoxton Hall), HOTEL EUROPA and PROMETHEUS BOUND (Cochrane Theatre/Hoxton Hall) She previously worked as an assistant director and literary manager for Theatre Royal Stratford East, freelanced for ITV, BBC and BBC Wales as a production designer and with Carl Fillion on LA CELESTINA and 1984, both projects directed by Robert Lepage and produced by Ex Machina.

YURI, directed by Mathilde Lopez will be at Chapter Arts Centre 26th – 30th July and Edinburgh Fringe Festival Underbelly, Cowgate, Big Belly 4th – 28th August.

What first drew you to your particular practice (art/acting/writing, etc)?

The tacit agreement between the audience and the actors.

What was your big breakthrough?

I haven’t had any.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work/process?

The speed I think. That is really a question for my collaborators and audience. I am pretty sure it is the speed.

Is there a piece of art, or a book, or a play, which changed you? Many but probably the key ones were the one I read during my teenage years, Caligula, Albert Camus play, Friday by Michel Tournier and Juan Munoz sculptures, all of them.

What’s more important: form or content?

Content is always in a form. No? I wouldn’t try to separate them, will just gravitate and rearrange the different embodiments.

How do you know when a project is finished?

When I am not anymore needed in the room

Do you read your reviews?

Yes, sadly and what a slavery.

What advice would you give a young writer/practitioner?

Try not to damage yourself and the others too much en route. But work hard.

What work of art would you most like to own?


What’s the biggest myth about writing/the creative process?

I don’t know

What are you working on now? A site specific version of La Voix Humaine by Francis Poulenc.

What is the piece of art/novel/collection/ you wish you’d created? Juan Munoz sculptures, all of them.

What do you wish you’d known when you were starting out?

Not to loose time with doubts

What’s your greatest ambition?

To have a family and I have luckily done it

How do you tackle lack of confidence, doubt, or insecurity?

I wake up early and run

What is the worst thing anyone said/wrote about your work?

I can’t remember but there’s probably plenty out there.

And the best thing?

That I create meticulously organised chaos. My husband said that. Hopefully it was about my work.

If you were to create a conceit or metaphor about the creative process, what would it be?

I wouldn’t try, it will likely to be obsolete as I write it.

What is your philosophy or life motto?

I don’t have any

What is the single most important thing you’ve learned about the creative life?

About the creative life particularly I am not sure but about life, that it has an end. It’s true, we forget.

What is the answer to the question I should have – but didn’t – ask?

I am thank you.


Yuri directed by Mathilde Lopez will be at Chapter Arts Centre 26th – 30th July and Edinburgh Fringe Festival Underbelly, Cowgate, Big Belly 4th – 28th August. You can find out more about the project at the kickstarter https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/august012/yuri-in-edinburgh

Disability Access and Inclusion – Surgeries for Arts Organisations in Wales

As patron of Disability Arts Cymru, I’m always happy to publicise and promote the sterling work they do. What follows is information about their surgeries for Arts Organisations in Wales, regarding disability access and inclusion.

Please share with any organisation in Wales who you feel would be interested in this. Please contact Disability Arts Cymru, at the address below regarding this.

Disability Access and Inclusion – Surgeries for Arts Organisations

Disability Arts Cymru is working in partnership with Creu Cymru and Hynt to run a series of surgeries free of charge on disability access and inclusion for arts organisations.

If you are in the process of developing a Diversity Strategy or a Disability Action Plan, the surgeries are for you!

Concerned about access backstage or at your office? Wondering about employing disabled artists? Want to engage better with disabled people?

Bring your queries about practical access, front of house issues, audience development, improving access to performances, workshops, events.

At Disability Arts Cymru we are also interested in developing networks in the arts, so that we can work together to support emerging and established disabled artists. We cover all art forms and work with all disabled people, so we are keen to talk to you too and to look at how we can be more effective together.

Dates and venues:

  • Thursday 9th June – Theatr Mwldan
  • Friday 10th June – Theatr Colwyn
  • Tuesday 14th Wales Millennium Centre
  • Wednesday 15th June – Wales Millennium Centre
  • Thursday 16th June – Pontardawe Arts Centre

Times: You may book a 60 minute surgery between 10.00am and 4.00pm. There is no charge for this service

How to book:

Call Disability Arts Cymru on 029 2055 1040 or email Sara Mackay sara@dacymru.com

If you are not able to make one of the surgery dates but would like to talk to us, we will be happy to arrange another time to meet up with you. Just let us know!

the 9 Fridas in Hong Kong



Frida Kahlo goes to Hong Kong!

Delighted that my performance text about Frida Kahlo – the 9 Fridas – originally produced for Taipei Arts Festival in 2014 by Mobius Strip Theatre Company, in association with Hong Kong Repertory Company, will transfer to Hong Kong later this autumn. The production features an integrated cast of male and female, disabled and non-disabled performers from Taipei and Hong Kong, all representing aspects of the great disabled Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. Directed by my long term collaborator, Phillip Zarrilli, the production is in Mandarin, with some Cantonese and Spanish. I will be travelling to Taipei to re-rehearse the production with Phillip, and then to Hong Kong, where the production will be part of the International Black Box Festival at Hong Kong Repertory Theatre 27-30 October: http://www.hkrep.com/en/events/16-bb4/


When there, I will be giving some talks on disability arts and culture, and leading writing workshops.

I’m immensely excited about this, and so looking forward to being back in Taiwan with the wonderfully talented actors and designers of Mobius Strip – the production is visually stunning. It will be interesting to revisit the production and see its transformation into a black box studio.