Tag Archives: adaptation

Adaptations, reinventions, and renewals at The Hours Bookshop, Brecon Feb 26 2015

Kaite O’Reilly: A Talk on adaptations, reinventions, renewals…

I will be giving a talk at the splendid The Hours Bookshop and Cafe, 15, Ship Street, Brecon, on Feb 26 at 4.30pm.

This free talk on adaptations, reinventions and renewals is in association with the performance of my production Playing The Maids at Theatr Brycheiniog, Canal Wharf, Brecon, that evening, 26th February at 8pm.

Over my career, I have reinvented many received stories. This informal talk will include how I approached Aeschylus’s ‘Persians’ for National Theatre Wales in 2010, for which I received the Ted Hughes Award for new works in poetry, to’Woman of Flowers’, my gritty retelling of the myth of Blodeuwedd from The Mabinogian,  to ‘Playing The Maids’, an international collaboration of new performance work in the age of austerity inspired by Genet’s play of class power dynamics…

Where to begin? What are the pitfalls? Is a story ever truly ours, or just passed down to the next generation?

The work inspired by Genet’s ‘The Maids’ is an international intercultural collaboration between The Llanarth Group (Wales), Gaitkrash (Ireland) and Theatre P’Yut (Korea), touring Wales 19th Feb – 6 March 2015.

‘…total imaginative engagement… a frontier of experimental work..’ (Echo on preview of ‘Playing The Maids’ at Cork Midsummer Festival 2014)

‘..a complex, multi-layered work… richly gorgeous stuff…’   (Jon Gower on ‘Playing the Maids’ preview)

My talk at 4.30pm at The Hours Bookshop and Cafe coincides with the extension of an exhibition there. Leigh and Nicky of The Hours wrote:

‘Blodeuwedd’ is Artist Toose Morton’s response to the tale we gave her from ‘The Mabinogion’ with which to conjure an exhibition of new work. And that she has. A wonderful fusion of Life Drawing, Painting and Sculpture the exhibition can be seen (and indeed works purchased) in our little upstairs gallery until February end. You can read more about Toose and her work here: https://www.facebook.com/Toosemortonart



No such thing as original… Writing plays and the ancient Greeks

Charles Mee

Charles Mee

I have a lot of time for the American playwright, novelist and historian Charles Mee. I was first introduced to his work by Phillip Zarrilli, who directed a large scale site-specific production of his version of Orestes in the US in 1998.

Mee does not believe that there is such a thing as an ‘original’ play – the ancient Greeks and Shakespeare retold existing stories and he believes all performance is both original and adaptation – we ‘remake’ as we go along.

His ongoing (Re)Making Project and the texts available on the site are offered as a free resource to be taken, used, refashioned and put to each artist’s use. He invites writers, dramaturgs, actors and directors to ‘…pillage the plays as I have pillaged the structures and contents of the plays of Euripides and Brecht and stuff out of Soap Opera Digest and the evening news and the internet, and build your own, entirely new, piece…’ He then encourages practitioners to share their own new re-makings. This way the old stories are made new, with resonance to contemporary audiences.

‘My own work’ Mee writes on his website ‘begins with the belief that human beings are, as Aristotle said, social creatures—that we are the product not just of psychology, but also of history and of culture, that we often express our histories and cultures in ways even we are not conscious of, that the culture speaks through us, grabs us and throws us to the ground, cries out, silences us.’

Owing to this, he tries to get past traditional forms of psychological realism, which in many ways over-simplifies the reasons why human beings do what they do. In an essay on theatre and translation for Theatre Journal in 2007, he celebrates what he views as the ancient Greeks more complex understanding of what it is to be human – what historians call multifactorial explanations: ‘We see now that we are formed by history and culture, gender and genetics, politics and economics, race and chance, as well as by psychology,‘ he writes.

Three years after writing my own version of Aeschylus’s Persians, I recently came across Mee’s opinion of the Greek chorus and found it similar to my own: the Greek chorus is the voice of the community, but composed of individual voices. In the version of Persians I wrote for National Theatre Wales in 2010, I separated out what I felt to be the different tones and ‘voices’ of the collective chorus into separate, identifiable, individual figures (I would not call them ‘characters’). They created the foundation and relief upon which the ‘principals’ rested.

‘I think the structures of the Greek plays were like Rolls Royces’. Mee states in the essay. ‘They work perfectly.’

I’m inclined to agree.

For further information on Charles Mee:


Kaite won the 2011 Ted Hughes Award for New works in Poetry for her version of Persians. For images of Mike Pearson’s stunning site-specific production, plus reviews and other information, see: http://www.kaiteoreilly.com/plays/persians/index.htm