Tag Archives: 17%

17% review of ‘Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors’


I’ve been a follower and reader of 17% for some time, and so I was delighted when I received a request for a review copy of my collected ‘Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors’. I’m proud to be included on the bookshelf! What follows is the review at: http://wp.me/pzWTb-BJ


Kaite O’Reilly has won various awards for her work, including the Peggy Ramsay Award for YARD (Bush Theatre, London), Manchester Evening News Best Play of 2004 for Perfect (Contact Theatre) and was one of the winners of the 2009 International Susan Smith Blackburn Award for The Almond and the Seahorse (Sherman Cymru). Her new version of Aeschylus’s Persians was directed in August 2010 by Mike Pearson site-specifically on Ministry Of Defence land in Wales, part of the inaugural year of National Theatre Wales, and won the 2011 Ted Hughes Award for New Works in Poetry. She works extensively within disability arts and culture, and wrote the ground breaking peeling for Graeae Theatre in 2002.

O’Reilly’s ‘Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors’ (Oberon Books, 2016) is the first collection of plays which places disabled and deaf actors and characters centre stage, and are written by a writer who is at the forefront of disability arts culture.

It is also a collection of plays which will make you reconsider the common language of plays. It will make you think about the usual form of a play which actually excludes any actor who might not fit the norms of ability. It might even make you question whether your own writing needs to change in order to embrace every aspect of the human condition.

There are plays featuring a range of disabilities which broaden the range of characters we usually see on stage.

peeling takes a meta-theatrical format as the three chorus members discuss the play they are and their lives using sign supported English, BSL and audio description. Reading this play was a particularly eye opening experience as the extra forms of communication add multiple layers.

The Almond and the Seahorse deals with traumatic brain injury, and Cosy is about eugenics and assisted suicide, issues which are at the forefront of disability politics. These two plays are more traditional in format, though none-the-less offer surprises.

The monologues In water I’m weightless were developed through extensive conversations with disabled and deaf people about every aspect of their lives. O’Reilly wanted to capture ‘the spiked angry early energy of the disability rights movement as I watched from 2010 onwards David Cameron’s Conservative government dismantle may of the equal rights and benefits we had won…’ This play feels particularly relevant now, as more and more rights are dismantled for disabled and able-bodied alike, and, as with the rest of the plays reproduced in this collection, the texts only serve to underline that despite our differences we are also the same in many ways.

In The 9 Fridas, Frida Kahlo is reclaimed as a disability icon in a mosaic of a play where Frida Kahlo is played by multiple actors.

The form and content of the plays tests not only what a play is, but also who we tell stories about. The play texts are open to being expanded by the actors and the production design. This is very much recommended reading.

Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors
Kaite O’Reilly
Oberon Books, £16.99

Equal Writes: which women are we not seeing represented on stage?




‘Women are 51% of the population and form 68% of theatre audiences, yet recent statistics by The Guardian, Equity, FIA and Sphinx Theatre show a persistent 2:1 male-to-female ratio of roles for actors appearing on stage. A significant consequence of this inequality is the stereotyping of women, lack of role modelling and an even greater diminishing of representation of women over the age of 35.

These statistics reflect the fact that the narratives of numerous women’s stories and identities are missing. While “all the world’s a stage” it is clear that many women are not seeing themselves represented; a wealth of their stories are to be uncovered, considered and made visible.

Equal Writes is part of the nationwide campaign towards gender parity.’

Equal Writes put out a public call for theatre writing which portrayed complex female characters and narratives currently underrepresented on stage.

I decided to submit a script as the cause is close to my heart and central to my politics. I submitted as I am a playwright and I know that only 17% of produced plays are written by women. This figure, combined with the statistics Equal Writes presents above, may go far in explaining the gender imbalance of professionals working in theatre, as well as the often ‘thin’ or stereotypical representations of women on the stage.

The extract I sent was from a monologue, ‘Walkie Talkies’, a comedy depicting a feisty disabled female character fighting institutionalisation and vying for independent living. I’m delighted to say this was one of the twelve selected from the massive entry of over 800 submissions, and will be performed by one of my long-term collaborators, Mandy Colleran, at Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden on March 11th 2013:

EQUAL WRITES: which women are we not seeing represented on stage?


Following Equal Writes’ call to all playwrights for submissions: an evening of selected scenes, monologues and discussion focusing on women, women’s stories and women in situations we are not presently seeing represented on UK stages.


Little Red Riding Headscarf by Yamina Bakiri

Flags by Andrew Curtis

Soft by Susan Harrison

A Blue Bonnet For Samuel by Alice Jolly

Piece Of Cake by Paul Macauley

Walkie Talkies by Kaite O’Reilly

La Barbe by Sarah Rutherford

Finally by AC Smith

Medicine by David Spencer

Downfall by Sumerah Srivastava

The Cat Call by Dominic Walker

Ms Bond by Emma Wilson

Tristan Bates Theatre Booking Details:

Equal Writes 19.30 11 March 2013

Box Office: 0207 240 6283

Email: boxoffice@tristanbatestheatre.co.uk

Online Booking: http://www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/tbt_performanceListing.asp?classname=Writes

Location: 1A Tower Street WC2H 9NP


Women playwrights and theatre: some facts

As Sphinx Theatre company revealed at their Vamps, Vixens and Feminists conference in 2009, 17% of the plays professionally produced in the UK are by women playwrights.

Let’s look at that again.

83% of all plays professionally produced in the UK are by male playwrights, although women constitute 52% of the population and 65% of the theatre-going audience.  http://17percent.co.uk

Such disparities in statistics have always bothered me, ever since I was a student and first became aware of inequality in access and opportunity across gender. There have been various surveys and studies into why this is the case and it emphatically does not come down to male playwrights being ‘better’ than female dramatists. There are a range of reasons why women playwrights are less produced than our male counterparts – from selection process to theatre structures and hierarchies, to predilections and (incorrect) presumptions by producers and directors – to attitudes and approaches by the playwrights themselves.

I recently came across playwright Marsha Norman’s essay, ‘What will it take to achieve equality for women in the theatre?’ which is well worth a read.  http://www.tcg.org/publications/at/nov09/women.cfm

She quotes New York State’s Council on the Arts three-year study of the status of women in the theatre, which concluded “Women are welcome at the front door of the theatre but not at the stage door. This goes for actresses, costume and lighting designers and directors as well as writers.” You can access the report at this link: www.womenarts.org/advocacy/WomenCountNYSCAReport.htm.

Some further statistics:

In the US in the last decade 11% of plays produced on Broadway were by women. (But these plays did 18% better at the box office – the reason being perhaps that 60% of the ticket buyers for Broadway shows are women.)


In Australia 7-ON surveyed the percentage of women writers in the seasons of four major companies in Sydney and discovered 5 of the 41 plays were by women – 12%.      http://sevenon.blogspot.com/

In recent years in Germany, major theatre company the Schaubühne had a stable of 32 playwrights, living and dead. Of these 3 (Helene Cixioux, Sarah Kane, Yael Ronan) were women.  http://www.schaubuehne.de/en_EN/ensemble/authors

These facts can be disheartening and it is clear this subject needs to be addressed.   Further research and campaigning is necessary to counter this bias in theatre and whilst this is happening, I’m also encouraged by women practitioners becoming proactive and challenging this trend directly.

Owing to this, I’m delighted to take my place alongside Timberlake Wertenbaker and Sharon Morgan as one of the patrons of Agent 160 Theatre Company.




Agent 160 is a new female writer-led theatre company that will launch in February, 2012.

We put on work in venues across the UK. We add to the amount of produced work written by women. We don’t campaign: we just write about what we want to write about, refusing to be pigeonholed by our gender, age, class, sexuality or location.

 We are fluid – reflecting the structure of our lives. We have a rolling directorship, with individual members able to steer the company for a period of time that suits them. We build help with childcare and maternity leave into our commissions, and help our writers opt in and out of projects as a part of our ethos, not as our duty.

 Agent 160 is committed to supporting its writers in developing and advancing their careers. We produce full-length and short plays. We pay our writers.

The company take their name from Aphra Behn (1640-1698), the first woman in the UK to earn her living as a playwright. She was also recruited as a political spy in Antwerp by Charles II – code name Agent 160.

Agent 160 Theatre Company will officially launch in the UK in February 2012 with a show part-funded by Creative Scotland, Arts Council England and Arts Council Wales. Agent 160 presents Agent 160 will be two nights of different short plays at the following venues:

CARDIFF: Chapter Arts Centre, February 17 and 18 at 7.30pm.

LONDON: Theatre503, February 19 and 20 at 7.45pm.

GLASGOW: The Arches, February 22 and 23 at 7.30pm.

Following the second show at each venue, there will be a question and answer session about the work and the current landscape of British theatre with regards to female writers.

Please support this initiative if you can, and for further information go to: