Tag Archives: co-creating

Playing the maids…painted flowers and the dramaturgy of a skirt

A day of details, props, painting flowers and the dramaturgy of the skirt…

‘Playing the Maids’ takes as a starting point Jean Genet’s modernist drama ‘The Maids’. We are not doing a production of Genet’s text – it was the source material when starting the collaboration last September.

First edition with Mick O'Shea's sound desk puppet

First edition with Mick O’Shea’s sound desk puppet

Given our interest in the politics of power and intimacy, sibling rivalry, and the European austerity times and the boom in China and South East Asia, ‘The Maids’ was a fascinating source from which to begin exploring relationships and dynamics. As director Phillip Zarrilli put it – ‘who is it that’s smiling now?’

We have two sets of sister maids – Irish and South Korean – and one Chinese-Singaporean Madam, Jing Hong Okorn-Kuo. Jing explores notions of privilege and beauty through a morphing figure of the powerful and desirable ‘Madam.’ Her choreographic work is influenced by the representation of the female from sources as broad as favourite courtesan in Beijing opera to the tragic Western ballet ‘Swan Lake.’ This is where what Phillip coined ‘the dramaturgy of the skirt’ arose from – the progression of the changing costume of Madam, especially in the form of a long sarong Jing pleats and folds to create different effects.

We have incorporated new text and found ways of further including cellist Adrian Curin and sound artist Mick O’Shea. They are on stage throughout, creating the soundscape of this world, responding to the action. I find myself watching Adrian and Mick watching our Solanges, Claires and Madam, adjusting the musical score, breathing with the performers.

Aoife Bradley, Katrina Foley, Josephine Dennehy and Alan Dalton

Aoife Bradley, Katrina Foley, Josephine Dennehy and Alan Dalton

Supporting our intense rehearsal period is an efficient and enthusiastic small army of interns – Aoife Bradley, Katrina Foley, Josephine Dennehy and Alan Dalton – who I found merrily spray-painting silk flowers red, black, and white outside in this unexpected heatwave. We’re delighted to have them in the rehearsal room, observing part of a process usually taking place behind closed doors. It is a privilege to have the next generation of theatre makers and professionals with us on this journey.



Diary of a collaboration. Day 5.

Jing, Bernie, Sunhee, Regina, Jeungsook and Genet's 'The Maids' (first edition).

Jing, Bernie, Sunhee, Regina, Jeungsook and Genet’s ‘The Maids’ (first edition).

Images from within the rehearsal room:

mick and puppet

Mick O’Shea and puppet at the sound desk.

Regina Crowley, Bernie Cronin and Jing Okorn-Kuo.

Regina Crowley, Bernie Cronin and Jing Okorn-Kuo.

A day of running structures, testing, revising, trying, assembling….

The view form the floor

The view from the floor

Diary of a Collaboration. Day one.

Regina Crowley and Bernie Cronin. Photo: Kaite O'Reilly

Regina Crowley and Bernie Cronin. Photo: Kaite O’Reilly

A day of beginnings.

After a brief warm-up, we plunged straight into exploring texts Phillip Zarrilli the director, Adrian Curtin the cellist and I as dramaturg have generated, in response to Genet’s The Maids. As the performers worked through the texts, Mick O’ Shea and Adrian created a sound environment.

Adrian Curtin.

Adrian Curtin.

It was uncanny, the speed with which we settled in to each other. The group has never worked together before, but the majority has worked in different contexts with Phillip over the past twelve years, and this shared language added to the ease with which we set immediately to work.

Jeungsook Yoo and Sunhee Kim

Jeungsook Yoo and Sunhee Kim

The collaboration is a coming together of three companies: Phillip’s company The Llanarth Group based in Wales, Theatre P’Yut from Seoul and Gaitkrash, from county Cork.

Mick O'Shea's palette of sound

Mick O’Shea’s palette of sound

Mick O’Shea  works as a visual and sonic artist, although he doesn’t like to categorise this way. He makes many of his instruments (I saw part of an egg slicer in one astonishing contraption) and when pressed he says he works with a palette of sound, of tone.

Jing Okorn-Kuo, Bernie Cronin and Regina Crowley

Jing Okorn-Kuo, Bernie Cronin and Regina Crowley

Today was a day of shared starting points, of improvisation and text-based work, exploring power, servitude, and siblings…

The Echo Chamber: rehearsal week one. Monday. Revision and remembering.






Ian Morgan. The Echo Chamber r&d day, Berlin. April 2011. Photo KOR.

It’s January 2nd 2012. It’s a Bank Holiday. Most people are still celebrating or recovering from the new year. We are in a former milking parlour in West Wales, trying to remember what we did to start developing The Echo Chamber in 2011.

Appropriate for the time of year, it is a time of reflection.

I have two large A4 files of texts and research material, have started my second notebook and am breaking in my fifth pen. I have so much notation and raw material, I’ve taken to carrying it around in a waxed cotton shopping bag I got free with a magazine.

In the days leading up to the start of rehearsals I spent hours looking at video footage of our peripatetic r&d sessions, editing down our two days in Berlin in April, four days in Wales in August, and two days in London in November, into notated lists of potential structures, motifs, and physical sequences we may decide to develop further. This pre-preparation saves us time, so we – Phillip Zarrilli, Ian Morgan, Peader Kirk and I –  can simply plug the video camera into the television and fast forward to the highlights, then scrutinise, deconstruct, and debate whether this is material to hold onto or put aside.

For years I hated working with a video camera. I spent too much time trying to decipher intention or meaning. I always knew video could never capture the essence of live performance, but I discovered how, combined with careful, copious notes, this documentation could be an aide memoir, particularly important when collaborating with dancers or physical theatre performers.

It is also an essential skill when juggling many projects, and developing a performance over a lengthy period of time.

My advice to all practitioners is to hone your notation skills and develop your own means of recording thoughts, ideas, associations, physical scores, traffic of the stage, improvisations, and anything else pertinent to the process of making. You may feel self-conscious at first, or over-eager, but resist the urge to censor or reduce your note-taking. ‘I’ll remember that’ we always think. But we don’t. Write it down. Commit it to words. You may be surprised when and how this turns out to be useful.

As writer/dramaturg of The Echo Chamber, I feel it is part of my job to keep a sense of where we are in the often long, non-linear narrative of co-creation – to be able to open my book – as I did this evening – and tell a colleague what the instruction was for an improvisation he made nine months ago in Germany.

The Echo Chamber by The Llanarth Group premieres:  CHAPTER ARTS CENTRE (Cardiff) 27-28 January, 2-3-4 February, 2012, 8p.m. [Market Road, Cardiff CF5 1QE: 02920 304400 http://www.chapter.org

copyright Kaite O’Reilly 2/1/12