Category Archives: on writing

Spies in our skies: the making of The Beauty Parade

Anne-Marie Piazza and Georgina White in ‘The Beauty Parade.’

The Beauty Parade, secret moon squadron, has finally landed, opening at Wales Millennium Centre to full houses and (I am so happy to say) emotional and enthusiastic audiences. I hope to write a full blog post about the process and reactions once I’ve caught my breath – so until then, here’s the programme notes  and an interview in The Guardian newspaper….

 

Kaite O’Reilly
Writer / Concept / Co-Director

“I first heard of ‘The Beauty Parade’ more than twenty years ago, when interviewing former Second World War Codebreaker Molly Schuesselle, who became a close friend. Molly worked with a pilot who dropped hastily trained British female agents behind enemy lines into occupied France between 1941-44 – codename ‘The Beauty Parade.’ Molly kept this information to herself for fifty years, having signed the Official Secrets Act. I was the first person she spoke to in depth about this.

For decades I have wanted to explore the stories of the ‘ordinary women’, nameless in war, who fell between the cracks, who perhaps did not return: women whose exploits even now languish in classified files owing to the clandestine nature of their war work.

An opportunity came thanks to the Arts Council of Wales who gave me a Creative Wales Major Award to experiment with form. Building on my thirty years of working with Deaf theatre practitioners, I set out to explore the creative potential of interweaving spoken, sung, projected, musical and visual languages into a performance, working with long term collaborators Sophie Stone and composer Rebecca Applin. Our process was unusual. I would write the material, select some for Sophie to transform into visual language, we would meet, polish the visual material, video it, then share with Becky, who composed following the tempo-rhythms of Sophie’s visual language. The process and outcome are unusual: the music follows the performer, and not the more usual way around.

I am immensely grateful to Wales Millennium Centre and our producer, Emma Evans, who understood the potential of this project, and who, despite my dogged insistence on the unusual process, still gave us a home.”

Graeme Farrow
Artistic Director, Wales Millennium Centre

Artistic director Graeme Farrow outside Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay

The Beauty Parade tells the stories of incredible women who played a vital, dangerous yet secret role in the Second World War. It’s a privilege to uncover these histories and to honour the invisible women who have, until now, been removed from history.

It has been a delight to co-produce this piece with ground-breaking theatre-maker Kaite O’Reilly. As an artist who has pioneered inclusive practice, her knowledge, experience and flair were integral for bringing these stories to life. She creates work that is thought provoking, creative and accessible.

Together with Kaite, we have explored new and innovative ways of working, and it has been hugely exciting to make work with visual language, music and text. The result is a multi-layered piece, that we hope will be seen and enjoyed by a wide audience.

With this co-production we continue our work that celebrates the voice in all its forms, and the responsibility we have to give a voice to those who have been forgotten or erased from history. We’re delighted to be celebrating these incredible women. It’s a thrill and a great responsibility to play our part in telling one of the most extraordinary stories of the 20th century.

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Spies in the skies: the extraordinary story of The Beauty Parade

Sophie Stone stars in Kaite O’Reilly’s show which celebrates the forgotten women of the second world war with a powerful visual language.

Gareth Llŷr Evans interviews the performer/visual language expert Sophie Stone and the writer, lyricist and co-director Kaite O’Reilly for The Guardian.

Different languages echo, augment and collide … Anne-Marie Piazza, Sophie Stone and Kaite O’Reilly during rehearsals for The Beauty Parade. Photograph: Rhys Cozens

 

Sophie Stone extends her right arm and lets her hand float downwards while moving her fore and middle fingers back and forth. With this gesture, the actor transports us from a lunchtime bar at the Wales Millennium Centre to a moonlit night in occupied France, where women parachute through the sky.

These are the women of The Beauty Parade, written and co-directed by Kaite O’Reilly. The title comes from a codename for a project established by the Special Operations Executive during the second world war. Fluent French-speaking women from England and Wales were recruited and trained as spies and saboteurs, before being flown across the Channel to join the resistance.

Based on O’Reilly’s text and lyrics, Sophie Stone has created a visual language to be performed as part of the work. Describing her process, Stone says: “It’s taking from a language anything that is visually iconic, and can be understood by either deaf or hearing audiences, then morphing it into a different image, led by an emotional context.” Images of war become tactile, modulated by gravity, speed and intensity. But this is not mere translation; it is deaf-led.

Stone identifies as Deaf with a capital D, which asserts deafness as a culture – rich with its own history, arts, languages and organisations – as opposed to solely the audiological condition, marginalised by a hearing world. “It’s not that I can’t hear,” she says. “I don’t hear. It’s self-empowering. It’s important to say.” She would film her sequences – a combination of elements of British Sign Language, with signed poetry and hand shapes – which were then used by composer Rebecca Applin for the show’s music and songs.

“I love the fact that you Google ‘beauty parade’ and you just get all these women in swimming costumes lining up,” O’Reilly says. But the show’s title also hints at a darker irony. These were women who had to use “their homespun beauty, appearing like the girl next door, to slip beneath the radar of surveillance”. These were extraordinary but ultimately invisible performances, undertaken in extraordinary circumstances.

It is, O’Reilly continues, a mostly forgotten history. “Because they were already using aliases, using their noms de guerre, these women fell between the cracks. Because they were often treated as criminals, they weren’t given POW status.” The war came to an end, and these women simply disappeared.

O’Reilly’s text allows for these stories to take centre stage. As a leading figure in disability arts and culture in the UK, foregrounding often marginalised bodies and voices is central to her work. Acclaimed for her writing specifically for deaf and disabled performers, her work invites audiences to interrogate our preconceptions of the centre and the periphery. The Beauty Parade is the first time that music has been central in the development of one of her plays.

On stage, Stone’s visual language, performed alongside actor-musicians Georgina White and Anne-Marie Piazza, is interwoven with O’Reilly’s text and Applin’s music. Sometimes these different languages echo and augment each other; sometimes they collide. But the effect, even when glimpsed early in their rehearsal period, feels viscerally theatrical. By necessity, according to the specific needs of the three performers, they breathe as one: setting the pace, shaping its rhythms and guiding each other.

In our separate conversations, both O’Reilly and Stone playfully suggest that the recent increased visibility of deaf and disabled stage performers was due to it being “fashionable”. But now, as a result of what might have initially been tick-box exercises, it is starting to bear real change. It is an exciting time, particularly for deaf actors, who are empowered beyond doing “lovely things with their hands,” as Stone jokes. “From being let into a room, people have realised that we’re worth so much more than that. It’s more than just fashion. It’s more than just box-ticking. We actually have something that makes the work richer.”

Fortune favours the brave, but chance favours the prepared mind

Maybe it’s my greed for experience, but I have always wanted to lead several lives, a desire made manifest through my choice of projects and parallel careers. I have been a physical theatre performer, a chambermaid, a live art practitioner and a volunteer relief aid worker in war zones. I have written libretti, radio drama, short film, prose; sold shoes, meat and copy; directed film and dance theatre; been a writer in residence and Creative Fellow; and supervised postgraduate degrees in writing for performance whilst participating in Deaf arts, disability culture and the so-called mainstream.

I think one of the most important lessons I have learnt is never to perceive myself as one thing. This business will often try to label us, slap a convenient sticker on our forehead and file us away under a limiting, narrow definition. Although often seen as perverse, I pride myself on not being easy to define. I try to keep experimenting, taking on new challenges and developing my skills. I’ve often found in the UK that diversity is seen as an anomaly, a vulgar excess to be treated with suspicion. Phrases like ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ damn the Renaissance wo/man. I know writers who have limited their careers and creativity by believing it’s inappropriate to try something new, or that there are set patterns and processes to adhere to (if only they could decipher them), rather than inventing new ones.

But it’s difficult and daunting to initiate projects and career paths, especially when writers are often solitary figures in an industry that seems to work in mysterious ways. How to progress is a central question. I spent years expecting everything to suddenly become clear once I had gained enough experience, but now I don’t believe there is one route, method or direction. This is a territory that can’t be definitively mapped. Yet when I look back over my own career, there is a logical pattern, an apparently designed trajectory, although my progress felt haphazard and peripatetic at the time. The only conclusion I can draw is the importance of being guided through the labyrinth by individual curiosity and passions. It is the only way to stop getting ‘lost’ or losing time in dead-end pursuits.

Too often emerging writers second-guess what directors or publishers want, or copy trends rather than setting them, or enter into a strange ventriloquism using a borrowed voice, not their own. When developing new writers, I encourage them to work from their passion/s, to identify and locate what engages or fascinates them. I’ve found that this engagement will often translate into the quality of the work, providing the writer with their particular viewpoint, whilst sustaining them through the long and often arduous process of rewriting. When writers are truly connected to their material they are unlikely to abandon the project – and I think it essential to finish things – their practice is often richer and more complex and they’re less willing to accept second best. It also means the work has content – the writers have something to communicate.

When I started out as a playwright, it was still usual to send one copy of the script out at a time and then endure an agonizing wait of many months to hear from the agent/literary manager/editor/director, only to repeat the hateful pattern all over again. I learnt to cultivate a third skin (a second isn’t thick enough) and, despite my sympathies for the invariably over-worked literary gatekeeper of that time, to loath the power balance. I wanted to be in control as much as I could be of my life, my work and any emerging neuroses. The depressive, solitary writer waiting anxiously by the letterbox/inbox was all too possible, so I distracted myself by reading widely and hungrily the work of women writers in other countries and centuries and exploring performance aesthetics which had fired my imagination.

My understanding of dramaturgy and the multiplicity of theatre languages bloomed when I became increasingly involved in Disability arts and culture and collaborating with Deaf practitioners, using visual language in performance alongside spoken and projected English. A new horizon of performative and dramaturgical possibilities opened before me, along with new markets and opportunities outside the UK. Without realizing it, I had embarked on my freelance career and begun my own professional development. By following my curiosity and being open to new experiences, writing, and form, I grew – and by developing further skills in application writing and producing, I became increasingly in control. I was no longer the passive female writer and maker, but one who was pro-active, controlling and owning ‘the means of production’.

But writers are often shy creatures, backstage, off-camera. It is asking a lot to expect them to be suddenly dynamic and inventive, which is where networks or informal support systems come into their own. I have a close group of allies and friends who act as sounding boards, dramaturgs, editors and actors for readings of works in progress. We barter and pool our skills, mentoring and nurturing one another. When starting out, we even impersonated each other to bypass nerves or modesty, finding it easier to chase up one another’s contacts and scripts rather than our own. Being part of a community is invaluable, as is learning to collaborate and ask for help. I think being aware to our fascinations is important – being alert and conscious of what fires our imagination – and ready to act on it. Fortune may favour the brave, but as Louis Pasteur advised: chance favours the prepared mind.

© Kaite O’Reilly Extracted from ‘How Did I Get Here?’ The Writer’s Compass. National Association of Writers in Education. https://www.nawe.co.uk

I’m not one for making new year resolutions, but I am mindful of that sense of a fresh new slate many experience this time of year, and so decided to share the above essay commissioned by NAWE many years ago. I hope it may engage and perhaps encourage the many writers I’ve met across the world who follow this blog, and hopefully anyone curious enough to read this. In 2020 I feel we need to be more inventive, connected, and creative than ever before – to be kind and angry, gentle yet strong, resistant and problem-solving. I aspire to have integrity, empathy and what my mother called common bloody decency, given there is so little evidence of that in many current political leaders around the world. I think we also need to feel that the  arts and culture has significance and impact, and we’re not just fiddling while Australia and many other parts of the world burns.

As hate crimes, intolerance, ableism and racism becomes ever more normalised, I feel I have to resist and refuse, offering alternative narratives and representations. That perhaps is the only power I have as a writer – to try and encourage empathy and understanding – ‘othering’ is harder to accomplish when you’ve sensed what it’s like to be in another’s skin.

This is why I am such an advocate for diversity and under-represented voices and perspectives. I try to present these in my work, but also support others making work that is political, fresh, and passionate. I’m delighted to be mentoring Dzifa Benson and Lisette Auton into 2020 – fabulous writers tackling some fascinating and important territory (more of which, in their own words, anon) – and continuing to advise the brilliant Carri Munn on a performance project initiated at National Theatre Wales which is both personal and communal, already packing a tremendous punch.

Further hidden stories and perspectives will be explored throughout 2020 as I continue searching the archives of the South Wales Miners’ Library and Richard Burton Archives, guided by historian Professor David Turner as part of Swansea University’s Creativity Fellowship. David’s specialism is disability during the industrial revolution and with his support and access to his splendid research, I hope to write a series of historical ‘d’ monologues over the year’s fellowship, to join my contemporary The ‘d’ Monologues.

Other professional highlights include revisiting Told by the Wind, a performance using the Japanese aesthetic of Quietude, co-created with Phillip Zarrilli and Jo Shapland a decade ago and still in repertory with The Llanarth Group. We’ve been invited to share the work at The International Theatre Festival of Kerala in Thrissur next month. On our return, Phillip and I will go immediately into rehearsals for The Beauty Parade, a collaboration with composer Rebecca Applin and performer/visual language expert Sophie Stone, seeded in my Creative Wales Major Award exploring ‘the performative power of words with music.’ I will continue working with emerging composers on CoDI Text, a project with Ty Cerdd, and look forward to teaching a masterclass in writing for performance at Ty Newydd with fellow playwright and dramaturg David Lane. After all that activity I will need some time to write and focus, so I am immensely grateful to have been granted a Hawthornden Fellowship, which will allow me a month’s retreat and concentrated work on a new project, linked to my Creativity Fellowship at Swansea University.

All in all, already a busy year… but there is still time to be supportive, part of a community, and to rage against the negativity and fear pedalled to us through politicians and media. Resist.

I wish you all a creative and joyful 2020 – and to resist, resist, resist.

Change will come.

 

 

 

The Writer’s Compass: inclusivity, diversity, innovation

The Beauty Parade. Wales Millennium Centre 5-14 March 2020

A Christmas bauble of Sophie Stone, Georgina White and Anne-Marie Piazza in a seasonal image of my next production, The Beauty Parade. Opening at Wales Millennium Centre (WMC) in March 2020, I’m currently completing the book and lyrics for this performance, working with composer Rebecca Applin and co-director Phillip Zarrilli:

“We are the secret moon squadrons. Dropped by moonlight to set Europe ablaze.”

It’s the 1940s, deep in wartime, men are fighting on the front line and women don’t engage in armed combat; they keep the fires burning, the factories going, and the children fed at home. Or so we were told…

The Beauty Parade has been a project a long time coming… It was inspired by a story told to me by my ‘adopted Grandma’ Molly Schuessele in the early 1990’s, about ordinary women recruited, trained as agents and then dropped by parachute behind enemy lines into occupied France 1941-44. I began exploring both the theme and the form in my 2017/18 Creative Wales Major Award: The performative power of words with music, before being commissioned to bring it to fruition by WMC. A collaboration between Deaf and hearing artists, it exemplifies the innovation in form and aesthetic I have been speaking about recently, at Simbiotic Festival (Barcelona) and for the British Council / Acesso Cultura in Lisbon earlier this week.

Barcelona and the Portugese event featured interactions with directors, programmers and artists, where I argued that so-called ‘access tools’ should be put at the heart of the creative process – ‘the aesthetics of access’. Rather than being an ‘add-on’ for ‘the disabled’ or ‘the Deaf’, I argue that creatively incorporating audio description, captioning, sign or visual languages into our performances from the outset develops the form and leads to innovative, exciting work.

It is immensely gratifying to have interest in inclusivity and work led by disabled and Deaf artists. For decades I and many others have been banging on doors, proselytising about the necessity of diversity not just in bodies on stage, but the stories told, by whom, and how. Working with fabulous composer Rebecca Applin and performer/visual language expert Sophie Stone has been a phenomenal experience, interweaving Deaf and hearing performance cultures into a hybrid, a ‘third way’….

After a short r&d next week, our rehearsals start with the full cast and company in Cardiff at WMC in February 2020. Along with writing the book and lyrics, I’m also co-directing with Phillip Zarrilli and co-producing with Emma Evans of WMC. Tickets are on sale now and further information about the production is available here.

 

From Singapore to Swansea – this writing life

I’m back in the rather wild and windy west of Wales after a stupendously creative six weeks in Singapore, working on a production with Intercultural Theatre Institute, plus a lecture-performance and workshop with Access Path Productions  for Singapore Writers Festival.

I’ve been to the writer’s festival in the past, so it was gratifying to be involved as a writer/performer and moderator this year, with a focus on inclusivity and my work in Disability arts and culture. After spending several decades trying to get past gate-keepers and a crip’ foot in the door, it was a delight to be welcomed and listed as one of the highlights of this international gathering. I gave a few lectures and public talks, reiterating how important disabled-led work is and also reflecting on the power and responsibilities of language. The festival’s theme was ‘A language of our own’ and we discussed how language can heal and hurt – my particular focus was on recent practice amongst politicians and the media in the UK, where language has been used to dehumanise those with difference and normalise disability hate crimes. As I said in my lecture at the festival:

Our voices, our languages, our modes of communication, our perspectives, our experiences – our lives – are important. Being invited to present on prestigious platforms like this is essential and hugely appreciated – in our contemporary situation, in the UK and elsewhere we are witnessing the systematic dehumanisation of disabled people by the government and the state. Brutal benefit cuts under the auspices of austerity were described on 16 November 2017 by the British Medical Journal – not a publication known for its sensationalism – as “economic murder” – with a reported 120,000 deaths caused directly by the current British government’s austerity policies. The removal of services, access and support for the disabled and Deaf communities have been coupled with deeply negative and damaging media narratives which in turn create an atmosphere where abuse, prejudice and violence is further normalised. In the UK, disability hate crime is on the increase – on Weds 9th October 2019 The Independent newspaper reported how violent crime against disabled individuals in England and Wales had increased by 41%, and offences with online element, up by 71%. We need to keep challenging the negative propaganda, the lies, offering diverse perspectives, with alternative expressions of what it is to be human, celebrating all the possibilities of human variety.

I am hugely grateful to the festival’s director Pooja Nansi for her innovative and inclusive programming. Thank you, Pooja, for giving a platform for such important discussions to take place.

Now that I am back in Wales, further conversations about disability and difference will flourish in my collaboration with historian Prof. David Turner as one of the Creativity Fellows at Swansea University, initiated by writer and Professor in Creativity Owen Sheers. We launch this Friday, 15th November:

The Creativity Fellowships are an exciting new initiative that offers two professional artists the chance to engage with and explore cutting-edge academic research at Swansea University.
Owen Sheers said:

‘I’m so pleased to be getting these Fellowships off the ground with two such talented and exciting artists. I hope they and their academic partners will have a fascinating year of collaboration and exploration, which also promises to be a powerful engine for furthering a vibrant conversation between the sciences and the arts at the University and in the wider community.’

Professor David Turner commented:

‘I am thrilled at the prospect of working with Kaite O’Reilly to bring the histories of disabled people to life. Kaite’s commitment to empowering disabled people through the creative arts will provide new and exciting ways of connecting the struggles of disabled people in the past with the experiences of people today.’

The event this Friday is free, tickets available here.

Returning from a long trip always disorientates me – it feels within moments of landing that the previous weeks were a mirage. Certainly adjusting to the temperature change alone is quite challenging – it seems unbelievable as I swaddle myself in thermals that 36 hours ago I was writing at a desk with two fans on high speed directed into my face…

So although the future work beckons – Swansea University, and a ‘Welcoming all Writers’ workshop at Small World Theatre with Chris Kinsey on 23/11/19, details below and tickets here  – it is important to reflect on where we have just been.

Singapore seems very far indeed from Cardigan, or even Rowan Ridge. For the past six weeks I’ve been working with the brilliant Intercultural Theatre Institute (ITI), the graduating 2019 cohort and I worked to adapt my reimagining of Schnitzler’s La Ronde for a Singaporean context. Directed by Phillip Zarrilli, designed by Dorothy Png and production managed by Natalie Lim, Lie With Me opened at the impressive Esplanade Theatres on the Bay last week.

Lie With Me featured an international cast of theatre makers and performers who may well be the shaping force of performance in the future, going by ITI’s impressive alumni. A review of the production follows

Lie With Me – a powerful exploration of the longing for intimacy

Lie With Me, ITI

12 Nov 2019
Article by Yaiza Canopoli for Arts Republic Singapore

Written by Kaite O’Reilly and directed by Phillip Zarrilli, the Intercultural Theatre Institute presents the Asian premiere of Lie With Me – a play about human relationships, class struggles, and the quest for intimacy. Led by a cast both Singaporean and international, the play was adapted by producers and actors alike to reflect Singaporean youth, and how we form meaningful relationships with each other. This is achieved by following eight characters, presented in pairs; one character of each pair overlaps and slips into the following couple on stage, threading a cyclical narrative of interconnectedness. The fact that each pair of characters feels lonely and isolated despite the wider connection to the entire cast speaks for itself: the sadness that envelops each character in its own way seeps out from the stage and makes this play relatable and breathtaking.

Lie With Me, ITI. 2019. Ted Nudgent Fernandez Tac-An and Tysha Khan Photos by Bernie Ng

The writing tackles a variety of topics and issues: we encounter poor Singaporeans, immigrants looking for work, sisters battling grief, same-sex couples, women fighting mental health issues, people in toxic relationships, and much more that falls in between these lines. Many of the characters’ struggles begin to blend into each other to spell out a universally human longing for affection and love. As the fights that break out between couples, siblings, and strangers keep us on the edge of our seat, we are left with a deep sense of empathy for people whose actions are morally grey or straight-up terrible. A number of scenes end with characters who have lost their temper asking to be held, to be cared for – love and intimacy attempting to overcome anger and violence.

Lie With Me, ITI 2019. Photo Bernie Ng. Wendy Too and Theresa Wee-Yenko.

The diversity of these relationships is impressive. We even get to witness the delightfully surprising connection that springs up between a self-involved upper-class woman and the prostitute she hires. While the attempt to cover such a wide variety of relationships and issues could have easily diluted the intensity of each story, the genuine nature of the dialogue, the fantastic acting (with wonderfully accurate facial expressions and even walking styles), and the masterful production made for a play that feels real and relevant.

Lie With Me, ITI, Esplanade Theatres in the Bay, Singapore, 2019

Appropriately titled, Lie With Me invites the audience to feel and mourn with the characters as they hold on to the one thing they long for at the end of a terrible day: a moment of tenderness and unconditional human affection.

The cast were: Ted Nudgent Fernandez Tac-An, Tysha Khan, Wendy Toh, Nour El Houda Essafi, Regina Toon, Theresa Wee-Yenko, Jin Chen and Earnest Hope Tinambacan.  For the full review, click here

I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to engage with such extraordinary people, and to collaborate with those from across the world. At the lecture/performance at the Singapore Writer’s Festival, my friend and long-term collaborator Grace Lee Khoo reflected on the difference between inclusive and participatory:

Inclusive means you’re invited to the party. Participatory means you get to dance.

Thank you to everyone these past weeks and looking forward to the future who has welcomed me, engaged with me, and enabled me to dance….

 

 

 

 

On adapting ‘LIE WITH ME’ for Singapore. ITI. Theatres in the Bay, Esplanade 7-9 November 2019

In 2017 I was commissioned to write a play for the graduating acting students of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), working with director Kirstie Davis. It was an intriguing invitation: What kind of performance text could I write which showcased eight young actors, but which avoided the entrenched hierarchies of ‘principal’ and ‘supporting’ actors? What kind of script would enable parity of time on stage for a large cast, while also showcasing individual talent?

The answer came through Arthur Schnitzler’s Reigen, more widely known as La Ronde, a controversial play written in 1897 critiquing sexual mores and class ideology through a ‘round dance’ of encounters between eight figures from all sections of society. Banned in its time and not produced until 1920 in Berlin, the play has continued to be a useful vehicle for generations of theatre makers to explore the moralities and sexual/social issues of their age.

My version borrows heavily from the dramaturgy of the original – this ‘daisy chain’ of encounters – but I was interested in more diverse interactions other than the solely sexual exchanges, as in Schnitzler’s work. Although some of the figures’ status at times deliberately echoes those in La Ronde, the content, references, exchanges, settings and outcomes are completely different and original.

This production for Intercultural Theatre Institute is an exploration of the connections and degrees of separation between individuals in post-truth, contemporary urban life. What lies do we tell each other – and ourselves – in order to survive in an increasingly ‘throw-away’ consumerist society? How do we package ourselves to be attractive both to the work market and potential partners? What are the evolving ‘rules’ of sexual encounter in a ‘swipe right’ culture?

We wanted this text to have resonance for the ITI 2019 cohort – it was important they had ownership of the content, the explorations of relationships and dynamics, and that the script reflected a city they recognised. With this in mind, we began a revision of the text weeks before rehearsals began, via skype, setting the actors research tasks which stimulated me while also informing me of the politics, attitudes and practice in Singapore of everything from online ‘influencers’ to funeral rites, migrant workers to gay marriage. When director Phillip Zarrilli and I arrived in Singapore and began our intensive rehearsals, we invited the actors’ involvement in adjusting the language of the text and its specific cultural references, so it would be familiar and recognisable to them as contemporary Singapore.

But this is not meant to be a snapshot of Singapore – what this exercise has revealed, and whatSchnitzler’s original shows, is the ever-changing, multi-layered nature of our cities and the shape-shifting nature of the self. A city is experienced through many lenses, situations, and personal, economic and political perspectives – it is folly to try and encapsulate ‘all’.  But I hope we have caught something of the present, captured a sense of the precarious  times we inhabit, and the challenging future our young people face.

I am indebted to the actors for their knowledge, generosity and enthusiasm during this exhilarating adaptation process, grateful to the excellent company and crew and the always surprising, ever-steady guidance of our director. It is a privilege and delight to work in Singapore, especially with the unique and essential ITI, who I have been fortunate to be associated with as part of their international faculty (intercultural dramaturgy) for many years. Long may you continue! Good luck to the graduating cohort as they take on the world!

Lie With Me

Presented by Intercultural Theatre Institute
In Collaboration with Esplanade — Theatres on the Bay

Written by Kaite O’Reilly
Directed by Phillip Zarrilli
​Performed by ITI’s 2019 graduating cohort

What are the evolving ‘rules’ of sexual encounters in a ‘swipe right’ culture?
What lies do we tell each other and ourselves in order to survive in an increasingly ‘throw-away’ consumerist society?
How do we form genuine relationships in this post-truth unstable world?

ITI presents the Asian premiere of Lie With Me, led by the award-winning team of playwright Kaite O’Reilly (“a writer to cherish” – The Guardian; “thought-provoking and entertaining” – The Stage) and director Phillip Zarrilli (“masterful artistry” – Disability Arts Online; “intellectual audacity coupled with sophisticated storytelling” – Wales Arts Review).

Performed by the international cast of ITI’s graduating cohort, Lie With Me takes a clear-eyed look at contemporary urban life in Singapore, through glimpses into the lives of eight young people trying to find their way in the world.

Performances will be live-captioned.

Tickets: https://liewithme.peatix.com/?lang=en-sg

Ty Newydd Writing for Performance Residential with Kaite O’Reilly and David Lane 13-17 July 2020

I have known and admired playwright/dramaturg/tutor David Lane for many years and so it is with the greatest of pleasure I announce our co-tutored residential at Ty Newydd, the National Writers’ Centre for Wales.

From 13-17 July 2020 we will be dreaming, writing, setting exercises, eating delicious food, sharing and critiquing work in progress, having two to one dramaturgical sessions (two dramaturgs and one writer!), having seaside walks, plotting and planning scripts in the beautiful gardens, sharing work in Lloyd George’s library and basically having the most wonderful time in the most splendid of settings. Yes, I know, I am biased, but it has been my joy to have been returning to teach at Ty Newydd for over twenty years – it is impossible not to fall in love with the place – and I’m excited about introducing David to this spectacular part of the world, as we set out on a rigorous but enjoyable residential course.

Ty Newydd

 

Writing for Performance

Mon 13 July 2020 – Fri 17 July 2020

Tutors / David Lane & Kaite O’Reilly

Course Fee / From £450 – £550 per person

Genres / Performance Scriptwriting Theatre

Language / English

This course is perfect for writers at the beginning of a new play looking for innovative, imaginative and thought-provoking ways to develop your writing for live performance. Through a combination of workshop exercises, one-to-one meetings and sharing of work in progress, you’ll explore a multitude of approaches on how to bring your work alive on the stage.

How can you follow a plan or idea for your play, but allow yourself to take risks and enjoy the freedom of spontaneity and exploration? Taking you through the nuts and bolts of applying dramatic and theatrical thinking at the earliest stage of your ideas, tutors Kaite O’Reilly and David Lane will bring their wealth of experience across a range of live performance media to the course. You’ll leave the course buzzing with ideas and with a clear roadmap for continuing your writing to completion of a first draft.

And if you’re in need of further incentive, how about an early bird discount of 10% if you book before 8 November. Code below.

Tutors

David Lane

David Lane has been making new work as a playwright and dramaturg since 2002 including commissions for Papatango, Chichester Festival Theatre, The Minack Theatre, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Half Moon Theatre and Forest Forge Theatre Company, and attachments with Bristol Old Vic and Bristol University. He has worked as dramaturg with award-winning devising companies including Fine Chisel, Dirty Market, Multistory, Theatre Rush, Scratchworks and Beaford Arts. David has contributed to writer development programmes at Soho Theatre, New Writing South, Ustinov Bath, Hull Truck, Tobacco Factory Theatres and the Bristol Old Vic, and he is an Associate Lecturer at Goldsmiths College and the author of Contemporary British Drama (Edinburgh University Press, 2010).

Kaite O'Reilly

Kaite O’Reilly

Kaite O’Reilly works internationally as a playwright, dramaturg, and tutor. She won The Ted Hughes Award for New Works in Poetry for her dramatic retelling of Persians, produced by National Theatre Wales in their inaugural year. Other prizes include The Peggy Ramsay Award, The Wales Theatre Award, the Manchester Theatre Award, an Honorary Commendations for the Jane Chambers Award and an Elliot Hayes International Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dramaturgy. She was a finalist in the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for women playwrights and has been shortlisted twice for the international James Tait Black Prize for Drama. Her work has been produced in fifteen countries worldwide, most recently Told by the WindLie with Me and peeling. Her critically acclaimed selected plays Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors (2016) and The ‘d’ Monologues (2018) are both published by Oberon. She teaches dramaturgy at the Intercultural Theatre Institute in Singapore and is patron of DaDaFest.

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Singapore

I’m in Singapore, returning to work with old collaborators Access Path Productions and Intercultural Theatre Institute  (ITI) and new partners Singapore Writers Festival. After the sudden snap of cold weather and signs of morning frost when I left the UK, Singapore is like swimming in a hot broth. The air at times feels liquid and languorous, but it is the beauty of the place and extraordinary mingling of cultures, cuisines, languages and belief systems that has me suddenly staring, standing stock-still in the street, entranced.

I’m teaching some seminars in Intercultural Dramaturgy at ITI, while the graduating cohort are in rehearsals with Phillip Zarrilli, preparing for the Singapore premiere of LIE WITH ME, my reworking of Schnitzler’s La Ronde.

Intercultural Theatre Institute: outside the rehearsal room

It is rare for a writer to have a second chance with a published or produced piece of work and I feel immensely fortunate to have the opportunity to rework LIE WITH ME  for a Singapore context. The student actors have all been assisting in this revision, researching specific topics such as funeral practices, the law and attitude regarding homosexuality, online ‘influencers’ and employment law, amongst other apparently obscure subjects. I originally wrote the play for a London-context, reflecting the experience of urban life for young people in a metropolis. Shifting the context to Singapore has been fascinating. As a playwright I’ve been surprised and excited by the amount of editing and re-writing I’ve had to do, to make the context credible for Singapore. I’ve had to reinvent some of the figures, such as a refugee – very common and current in an European context, but not here. It’s been intriguing exploring alternative characters and dynamics and I’m immensely grateful for the research and suggestions the actors have given me.

Phillip Zarrilli leading his psychophysical approach to actor-training

Prior to the daily rehearsals, Phillip Zarrilli leads the students in his psychophysical approach to actor-training, using kalarippayattu, yoga, and tai chi. One of the focuses is ‘atunement’ to the space and each other on stage.

The elephant pose. Kalarippayattu. Phillip Zarrilli with 2019 ITI cohort

LIE WITH ME differs from the original (first produced in 1897) in that it focuses on encounters and interactions of all kinds, not just sexual. It raises various questions, such as how do we form genuine relationships in an unstable, post-truth world? What are the ‘rules’ of sexual engagement in a ‘swipe-right’ culture? What lies do we tell ourselves and each other in a throw-away consumerist world filled with ‘alternative facts’?

The production opens at the Esplanade Theatre Studio on 7th November and runs until 9th November. Tickets and information are available here.

Other activities while I am here in Singapore include a lecture-performance at Singapore Writers Festival on 2nd November, and a workshop on 3rd November, challenging ableist language and the representation of difference in fiction, poetry and plays.

I’m delighted to be reunited with some of my collaborators from And Suddenly I Disappear: The Singapore ‘d’ Monologues for a lecture-performance, followed by the Asian launch of The ‘d’ Monologues (published by Oberon). It was fantastic to pick up the scripts again with Wheelsmith Danial Bawtham and Grace Lee-Khoo. I’m looking forward hugely to the event and it will be a privilege to share this with some of the brilliant Deaf and disabled Singaporean individuals who supported, engaged with and inspired the fictional monologues.