Cosy – dialects and tempo-rhythm

And so the posters and flyers arrive… so this really is happening, then!

It’s the start of the final week of rehearsals and Gaitkrash’s production of ‘Cosy’ for The Cork Midsummer Festival 2019 is shaping up…

We’ve been finalising the script, making sure that the vocabulary, references and syntax are Cork-specific and sit comfortably in the actors’ mouths. I might be unusual in this respect, but as the playwright working on a new production, I’m happy to change dialogue that trips the actor or goes against the dialect. I remember from years ago when I was still performing, I could get a mental ‘block’ about a certain word or particular phrase in a speech. I would become self-conscious, knowing that word was coming up and with the loss of focus would invariably come a ‘trip’ of the tongue. One of the pleasures of being the writer in rehearsals is problem-solving, and having the power to amend text, if appropriate. By this I don’t mean changing the actual content, meaning or politics of a line – it’s the actors’ job to ‘get’ that, however difficult to grasp – I mean the ‘musicality’ of the text, the tempo-rhythm and construction of a line.

Quite a few times this just involves moving a word around in a sentence – where ‘well’, or ‘just’ appears. It might be changing ‘Mam’ with ‘Mum’, or vice versa. ‘It’s more ‘Cork’ to change the order of this sentence around,’ I’ve been told several times today, and this is a detail I embrace. It’s essential. We want the drama to revolve around three generations of women in a Cork family (plus a strange ‘sidekick’ from West Wales – Sara Beer – bringing her own vocal musicality), so as my mother used to say ‘God – and the devil – is in the detail’. I’m enjoying this lesson in dialect.

As a playwright, the sound and rhythms of each beat within a scene is important. I’ve often described my way of working as ‘composing’ rather than writing, as so much depends on the sound and flow of the words and the dynamic. I will read aloud a sentence or exchange between characters several times, ensuring it has the pace and movement I want. With that tempo-rhythm comes the tension or ‘atmosphere’ in the moment.

I want the words to dance off the actor’s tongue – and there is always more than one ‘dance’ going on – I want variety in pace and tone and musicality. Thankfully, when working with such a talented cast, there is skill and variety a-plenty.

A playwright’s work: Meaty parts for female actors of all ages. In rehearsals for “cosy’

Mairin Prendergast and Pauline O’Driscoll playing Mother and daughter in Kaite O’Reilly’s ‘Cosy’ rehearsals. Gaitkrash for Cork Midsummer Festival. Firkin Crane 18-22. June 2019. Photo: Sara Beer

I describe my work as a playwright as creating dynamic. I’m fascinated with complex relationships, flawed but engaging characters representing different perspectives.  Writing ‘Cosy’, a play with three generations of women in one family, was an immense pleasure, although, like any writing, it had its challenges… However, one aspect that was not difficult was writing meaty parts for female performers of all ages. 

‘Cosy’ has a cast of six, with playing ages from 16 to 76 years. I think this is essential – and, at risk of sounding a little worthy, part of my duty as a dramatist – to represent women of all ages.

There was a time when female characters became somewhat invisible at a certain age… A well known Classical actress once mapped out the trajectory of a woman’s acting career to me: You start as the ingenue, then get stuck as a housewife/mother cooking in the background, and if you’re very lucky you get to be Lady M in the Scottish play. Then you hang around being the wallpaper while the male actors have all the action and lines until you’re old enough to play Lady Bracknell…and….well….that’s it…

But happily no longer. Those days are increasingly in the past, and I’m delighted to be part of the new wave creating roles across the range of ages for the massive amount of female talent out there.

One of my joys as a writer when working on a first draft is setting off intelligent, gobby, fascinating and diverse female characters in dialogue with one another, cutting them loose in my imagination and just following their impulses, often not knowing where we might end up. The skill when revising the script is keeping all the plates spinning, the voices separate and distinct, the individual perspectives clear and not blurring into one another. When I teach writing for performance, I always remind writers to be aware of each characters’ world view; it’s very easy when juggling multiple characters for their vocabulary, speech pattern and syntax to bleed into one another, so they all end up sounding the same. Ensuring  each character’s point of view  keeps the dialogue distinct and the dynamic thrumming, whether through harmony or counter-point.

Theatre enables us to explore issues from every conceivable angle. I don’t want the characters I write to just echo my perspective – I relish exploring different points of view, even politics or beliefs distant from my own. ‘Cosy’ tackles some of the last great taboos – ageing, illness and end of life scenarios. The experiences and perspectives of my six female characters, ranging in age across five decades, provides immensely rich and diverse material.

8.00pm

Firkin Crane, Cork

Book here

Supported by an Arts Council Project Award., CIT Arts Office, UCC Department of Theatre, CIT Cork School of Music, Civic Trust House, Suisha Inclusive Arts, and The Guesthouse. 

 

 

 

Getting Cosy at Cork Midsummer Festival 2019

“It’s like I’ve disappeared. I walk down the road and throw no shadow.”

“That’s what getting older does for you.”

Ageing is a lesson in humility – a time of reckoning. Rose wants an exit plan that is bold and invigorating, but her three warring daughters have other ideas. We all have to die, but what makes a good death? Everyone seems to have an opinion, even Rose’s precocious granddaughter and the strange Welsh woman taking refuge in the garden.

Cosy is a darkly comedic look at the joys and humiliations of getting older and how we shuffle off this mortal coil. It tackles head-on our obsession with eternal youth, and asks whose life (or death) is it, anyway?

Humour is a great panacea, allowing us to consider serious subjects with resonance for our times. I believe it is laughter which allows us to dare and shine a light into those darker corners of human existence which we might otherwise wish to avoid…

Ageing, mortality, and its impact on that original cast – the family – has long been of fascination to me. We all become children when we go home. When a family gathers across generations, siblings degenerate into nursery rivalries, retaining all the same childhood hierarchies, antipathies and alliances of the past. When this coincides with the serious issue of the fragility and uncertainties of ageing, and an apparent lack of agency and control about the future, what happens? Do those fragile fissures crack?

With a population top heavy with baby boomers, the next generation hungry for their inheritance, a care crisis and recent parliamentary debates around the ‘right to die’, Cosy is a play with immediate relevance today.

I’m immensely excited to be writing this first blog post about the forthcoming Irish premiere of the play, produced by Cork-based long term collaborators Gaitkrash. We co-created playing The Maids, previewing as work in progress in the 2014 Cork Midsummer Festival, so it is with a certain relish director Phillip Zarrilli and I return to the city and this lovely festival.

We started rehearsals this week, and I’ll be documenting that creative process in future blogs, reflecting on the challenges and changes of second productions, the impact of changing country and nationality, what is discovered and made new – and other topics as they arise. Meanwhile, here’s a little information about this specific production:

Cosy is an inclusive production for a mainstream audience, exploring universal ethical issues of life, death, and our relationship to the medical profession, powered by a disability perspective.

8.00pm

Firkin Crane, Cork

Book here

Supported by an Arts Council Project Award., CIT Arts Office, UCC Department of Theatre, CIT Cork School of Music, Civic Trust House, Suisha Inclusive Arts, and The Guesthouse. 

 

KAITE O’REILLY AND PHILLIP ZARRILLI, IN CONVERSATION WITH SEAMUS O’MAHONY
Crawford Art Gallery (lecture theatre)
20 June | 5.30pm
Join playwright Kaite O’Reilly and director Phillip Zarrilli of Gaitkrash Theatre’s Cosy, receiving its Irish premiere as part of Cork Midsummer Festival 2019, as they discuss our attitudes to end-of-life scenarios with Seamus O’Mahony, writer of the award-winning book The Way We Die Now. Has our society lost the ability to deal with death? Join the conversation as the three guests reflect on their work and the last great taboo: dying.
Tickets and how to book on the festival website.

Publication of Persians – winner of second Ted Hughes Award for new works in poetry – launches, workshops, readings.

‘Persians’ in a new version by Kaite O’Reilly, Fair Acre Press. Cover photo of Gerald Tyler, John Rowley and Richard Huw Morgan by Farrows Creative from Mike Pearson’s production for National Theatre Wales.

Almost a decade on from its premiere on Ministry of Defence land in the Welsh Brecon Beacons, and eight years after winning the Ted Hughes Award for new works in poetry, my version of Aeschylus’s ‘Persians’ is finally published by independent publisher Fair Acre Press…. and I perhaps shouldn’t, but will state, I love everything about it. Yes, I’m biased, but it is a thing of beauty – from the striking cover, using my favourite image from Mike Pearson’s acclaimed National Theatre Wales production, to the texture and quality of the paper. I also loved liaising with editor and designer Nadia Kingsley on every aspect of the book, relishing the thought given to the layout, which had Nadia and I yo-yoing back and forth in discussion, aided and abetted by the brilliant Chris Kinsey.

Chris and Nadia were attentive readers, responding to my revisions as I transferred the verse drama from something to be experienced live and site-specifically, to a text to be read possibly silently and alone. The layout and structure has changed to suit this new manifestation, reverting more to the original dramaturgy, as opposed to the one I devised to fit the promenade aspect of Pearson’s production.

From the Introduction.

Persians by Aeschylus is the oldest extant verse drama in the Western canon. First presented at Athens’ City Dionysia Festival in 472 BCE, it recounts the Persian response to military defeat at the Battle of Salamis in 480BCE.

Aeschylus: poet, philosopher, soldier-playwright, anti-warmonger, humanist. He chose to write about an astonishing, almost miraculous event, a David and Goliath of its day: the spectacular and relatively recent defeat of the marauding Persian Imperial force by the people of Athens. Aeschylus was an Athenian. He could have written a swaggering tale of victory, of the battle-prowess Greeks and their cunning and sacrifice to protect this early, emerging experiment in (a form of) democracy. He could have written a xenophobic pageant of blood-lust and warriors, filled with self-congratulatory jingoism and gloating over the dead. Instead – in my reading at least – he chose to write a powerful anti-war verse drama which painfully depicts the waste and agonies of conflict – what Wilfred Owen, another soldier-poet, called ‘the pity of war’ – written with fire and dignity from the point of view of the defeated.

Reviews and endorsements:

I am hugely grateful to Gillian Clarke, the former Bard of Wales (2008-16) and one of the judges of the Ted Hughes Award, for her enthusiasm towards my reworking of Aeschylus’s “Persians’.  Her words grace the back cover:

“In her version of Europe’s oldest dramatic poem, a requiem to a nation’s dead in a reckless, fruitless war, Kaite O’Reilly chooses the iambic drumbeat of English blank verse, and a long-lined lyricism that befits an epic lament. The language is modern, the word-music timeless, the rhythms ring with echoes of Elizabethan drama. In this powerful translation, the three voices of the Chorus tell the tragic story in a breathless song of mourning that insists on being heard.” Gillian Clarke.

The book is currently out with reviewers, but Liz Jones has already critiqued the verse drama for New Welsh Review:

“Kaite O’Reilly’s powerful, emotionally charged text…. stands squarely on its own as a notable work of poetry…. There is no Henry IV rallying his troops, no deposed king in search of his horse, no heroism on the battlefield. Instead we have something more resonant; a reflective mediation on war’s aftermath; a dramatic study of loss, grief and defeat, voiced by a sorrowful chorus….Under the weight of grief, language itself breaks down into incoherent keening…. A haunting tragedy and a salutary reminder that all empires must eventually end, it is hardly surprising that Persians continues to resonate across the centuries. O’Reilly’s translation, written as it was when American troops were withdrawing from Iraq, anticipates the fall of the empire of our age; that of America (and by association, of Western hegemony). Written and performed during ‘a time of terror’, O’Reilly has overlaid Aeschylus’ timeless tragedy with a distinctively contemporary howl of pain.”

Liz Jones. New Welsh Review.  NWR issue r31. Full review here.

‘Persians’ will be published by Fair Acre Press on 29th July 2019, but advance copies can be ordered from the publisher here. It will also be available via Amazon, online, and all good bookshops from the publication date.

Launch and workshop:

I will be launching Persians in Cardigan at Small World Theatre on 7th September, following a workshop on adapting ancient texts:

Singing the old bones –  new stories from ancient texts. 
Revisiting older stories can be a masterclass in narrative. Myths, fairystories, epics from Ancient Greek drama and the oral tradition survive as they seem to speak to each age anew. These archetypal characters and narratives inspire and invite constant reinvention, yet the old bones remain true. In this practical workshop we will retell, remake and renew, participants exploring individual perspectives on timeless themes, reshaping ancient tales to illuminate something contemporary. The tutor, Kaite, is a repeat re-teller, creating to date three very different performances on the story of Blodeuwedd from The Mabinogion, and a new version of Aeschylus’s Persians,the oldest verse drama in the Western tradition, which won The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry.
We ask participants to come with a myth, fable, ancient drama or story, which we will use to explore the fundamentals of story making: theme, structure, setting, dialogue and character. Through examples of Kaite’s diverse approaches to reinventing existing texts, we will make our own, sparking a new cycle of telling and retellings, seeding work which could be developed further beyond the masterclass.
.
Workshop 2-5pm on 7th September 2019, £25.
Small World Theatre | Theatr Byd Bychan
Cardigan | Aberteifi, SA43 IJY
.
Booking:
sam@smallworld.org.uk
01239 615 952
smallworld.org.uk
twitter: @theatrbydbychan
Numbers are limited and already almost sold out, but plans are afoot for a further workshop/event in November 2019 at the same venue. 
After the workshop:
.
Launch of ‘Persians’ Kaite O’Reilly’s new version of Aeschylus’s classic verse drama. 6pm. Free entry.
Kaite will read from the verse drama and speak about the historical and contemporary contexts of this extraordinary text. There will be a book signing after the reading and launch.
.
There will be further readings and events celebrating Fair Acre Press’s publication of ‘Persians’. Details will follow. I’m simply ecstatic being able to reveal the cover and some of the details of this, my debut poetry publication, which has taken so many years to reach print. Thanks to my fantastic agents at Blake Friedmann, Gillian Clarke, Chris Kinsey and to Nadia Kingsley of Fair Acre Press. What a beautiful collaboration!

Some thoughts on the short story…..

I have an addiction which I have already owned up to in public: I’m addicted to quotations, to the bon mot. I love reading what others have written/said about form, style, narrative, content… I collect ‘sayings’, advice to writers, and reflections on a form. Although I’m primarily a playwright, I also write in different forms and for different media (radio drama, film) and when working in a particular genre, I avoid reading for pleasure in that style. There’s always a fear that unconsciously I’ll absorb or be influenced by what I’m reading, so I mix it up – read creative non-fiction when writing plays, short stories when screenwriting, poetry when digging deep into prose. Influence and inspiration may of course follow, but at least if I’m trying to write short stories, I’m not going to come out sounding like Raymond Carver.

When I’m really flat-out and focused on completing a project, I by-pass it all and read about reading and writing. So in celebration of this literary nerdiness, here are some quotations from Lorrie Moore to William Faulkner about that robust but most delicate of form, the short story:

“Find the key emotion; this may be all you need know to find your short story.”  F. Scott Fitzgerald

“One has to imagine, one has to create (exaggerate, lie, fabricate from whole cloth and patch together from remnants), or the thing will not come alive as art… A story is a kind of biopsy of human life. A story is both local, specific, small, and deep, in a kind of penetrating, layered, and revealing way.” Lorrie Moore

“A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.” Edgar Allan Poe.

“The novel…creates a bemusing effect. The short story, on the other hand wakes the reader up. Not only that, it answers the primitive craving for art, the wit, paradox and beauty of shape, the longing to see a dramatic pattern and significance in our experience.”  V.S.Pritchett

“A good [short story] would take me out of myself and then stuff me back in, outsized, now, and uneasy with the fit.” David Sedaris

“Short stories do not say this happened and this happened and this happened. They are a microcosm and a magnification rather than a linear progression.” Isobelle Carmody

“A short story is the nearest thing I know to lyric poetry… A novel actually requires far more logic and far more knowledge of circumstances, whereas a short story can have the sort of detachment from circumstances that lyric poetry has.”
William Faulkner

“A short story is a love affair; a novel is a marriage. A short story is a photograph; a novel is a film.” Lorrie Moore

 

Cosy at Cork Midsummer Festival June 2019

Finally delighted to reveal…..

‘Cosy’ at Cork Midsummer Festival 2019.

The cast of ‘Cosy’. Cork Midsummer Festival 2019

Kaite O’Reilly’s darkly comic play combines an unflinching examination of our attitudes to youth, ageing, and death in an often hilarious and moving encounter between three generations of women.

“It’s like I’ve disappeared. I walk down the road and throw no shadow.”

“That’s what getting older does for you.”

Rose wants an exit plan that is bold and invigorating, but her three warring daughters have other ideas. We all have to die, but what makes a good death? Everyone seems to have an opinion: Rose’s daughters, her precocious granddaughter and even the strange Welsh woman taking refuge in the garden.

8.00pm

Firkin Crane, Cork

Book here

Supported by an Arts Council Project Award., CIT Arts Office, UCC Department of Theatre, CIT Cork School of Music, Civic Trust House, Suisha Inclusive Arts, and The Guesthouse. 

KAITE O’REILLY AND PHILLIP ZARRILLI, IN CONVERSATION WITH SEAMUS O’MAHONY
Crawford Art Gallery (lecture theatre)
21 June | 5.30pm

Join playwright Kaite O’Reilly and director Phillip Zarrilli of Gaitkrash Theatre’s Cosy, receiving its Irish premiere as
part of Cork Midsummer Festival 2019, as they discuss our attitudes to end-of-life scenarios with Seamus O’Mahony,
writer of the award-winning book The Way We Die Now. Has our society lost the ability to deal with death? Join the
conversation as the three guests reflect on their work and the last great taboo: dying.

Book here

Singing the Old Bones – a workshop with Kaite O’Reilly 7th September 2019

Singing the old bones –  new stories from ancient texts. 
.
Revisiting older stories can be a masterclass in narrative. Myths, fairystories, epics from Ancient Greek drama and the oral tradition survive as they seem to speak to each age anew. These archetypal characters and narratives inspire and invite constant reinvention, yet the old bones remain true. In this practical workshop we will retell, remake and renew, participants exploring individual perspectives on timeless themes, reshaping ancient tales to illuminate something contemporary. The tutor, Kaite, is a repeat re-teller, creating to date three very different performances on the story of Blodeuwedd from The Mabinogion, and a new version of Aeschylus’s Persians,the oldest verse drama in the Western tradition, which won The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry.
We ask participants to come with a myth, fable, ancient drama or story, which we will use to explore the fundamentals of story making: theme, structure, setting, dialogue and character. Through examples of Kaite’s diverse approaches to reinventing existing texts, we will make our own, sparking a new cycle of telling and retellings, seeding work which could be developed further beyond the masterclass.
.
Workshop 2-5pm on 7th September 2019, £25.
Small World Theatre | Theatr Byd Bychan
Cardigan | Aberteifi, SA43 IJY
Booking:
sam@smallworld.org.uk
01239 615 952
smallworld.org.uk
twitter: @theatrbydbychan
Numbers are limited and already almost sold out, but plans are afoot for a further workshop/event in November 2019 at the same venue. Further details will follow.
.
After the workshop:
Launch of ‘Persians’ Kaite O’Reilly’s new version of Aeschylus’s classic verse drama. 6pm. Free entry.
Aeschylus was a soldier-playwright involved in the battle of Salamis in 480 BCE, when the vastly out-numbered Greeks defeated the might of the marauding Persian Empire. This exploration of the pity of war from the point of the view of the defeated is an extraordinary feat of compassion, and the oldest existing text in the Western theatrical canon. Kaite wrote her new version for Mike Pearson’s site-specific production on Ministry of defence land in the Brecon Beacons for National Theatre Wales’s inaugural year. Revised and reinvented, it won The Ted Hughes Award for New Works in Poetry and is published by Fairacre Press.
Kaite will read from the verse drama and speak about the historical and contemporary contexts of this extraordinary text. There will be a book signing after the reading and launch.
.
“In her version of Europe’s oldest dramatic poem, a requiem to a nation’s dead in a reckless, fruitless war, Kaite O’Reilly chooses the iambic drumbeat of English blank verse, and a long-lined lyricism that befits an epic lament. The language is modern, the word-music timeless… In this powerful translation, the three voices of the Chorus tell the tragic story in a breathless song of mourning that insists on being heard….”  Gillian Clarke.
.
——
I will be making a ‘reveal’ of the cover and details of this publication after Easter… have a restful and creative time.