Tag Archives: dance

Unlimited Commissions 2015

At a launch earlier this week, the next nine commissions from Unlimited were announced. I’m delighted to be one of them.

Cosy is a darkly humorous play in an inclusive production for a mainstream audience, exploring universal ethical issues of life, death, and our relationship to the medical profession, and its desire to mend and sustain the body, regardless of quality of life. It aims to examine the final taboo with wit, intelligence and full emotional engagement, powered by a disability perspective.

Kaite said:

“I’m delighted that the panel behind Unlimited have seen the potential in this new play, exploring what is arguably our last taboo – the means by which we shuffle off this mortal coil. I hope to explore this often feared topic with humorous irreverence, as well as sobriety and respect. What I love about humans is our ability to live joyfully and in the moment, despite the knowledge our time is finite and we will all die one day. How these two opposing perspectives co-exist will be fascinating to explore theatrically – and the deceptions, avoidances, contradictions and confrontations within a family with distinct and different ethical, religious, and political perspectives of end of life scenarios.

As someone who identifies as disabled, I have long been part of a vibrant community known for its joie de vivre and gallows humour – created, perhaps, from our knowledge of the fragility and resilience of the human body. I want to bring some of the quality of this insight and perspective to the script, in a production I hope will be funny, quirky, honest, daring, and fully engaging emotionally and intellectually.’

‘Cosy’ will be directed by internationally recognized Wales-based director, Phillip Zarrilli. It will premiere in Wales in spring 2016 before taking it to the Unlimited festivals at the South Bank, London and Tramway, Glasgow in September 2016.

Jo Verrent, Senior Producer of Unlimited, said:

‘Art is at the heart of Unlimited; it’s the work that disabled artists and companies create that has the power and potential to transform perceptions. It’s a real privilege to be able to extend that opportunity now not just to artists based in England and Scotland but Wales too. I can’t wait to see what they all have to offer!’


The nine Unlimited commissions for 2015-16 span a wide range of disciplines – including theatre, visual arts, dance and literature – and are created by some of the most talented disabled artists in the UK.

‘Demonstrating the World’ Aaron Williamson (Visual Arts)
‘The Doorways Project’ Bekki Perriman (Other)
‘TV Classics Part 1’ Cameron Morgan (Visual Arts)
‘The Way You Look (At Me) Tonight’ Claire Cunningham (Dance)
‘Grandad and the Machine’ Jack Dean (Literature)
‘Cosy’ Kaite O’Reilly (Theatre)
‘Assisted Suicide: The Musical’ Liz Carr (Theatre)
‘Cherophobia’ Noemi Lakmaier (Visual Arts)
‘Him’ Sheila Hill (Theatre)



The Llanarth Group’s Told by the Wind – Huddersfield and Tokyo Oct/Nov 2013.

They are not cities I would usually put together… Huddersfield and Tokyo… but that’s where Jo Shapland, Phillip Zarrilli and I are off to next week, on tour with The Llanarth Group’s Told by the Wind.

Jo Shapland and Phillip Zarrilli in The Llanarth Group's 'Told by the Wind'

Jo Shapland and Phillip Zarrilli in The Llanarth Group’s ‘Told by the Wind’

The production in Huddersfield is performed as part of Being Here: Psychophysical Performance as Mindfulness Practice – a four day event at the University of Huddersfield.


Huddersfield (Box office: 01484 430528) presents: TOLD BY THE WIND

(The Llanarth Group)

Monday 28 – Tuesday 29 October

Performance at: University Of Huddersfield: 8.00pm / Tuesday early show 6.00pm

Tickets:  £12 / concessions £10 / student £6 – to book tickets please contact miltonboxoffice@hud.ac.uk

We then fly to Tokyo at the end of the month, showing the work at Babylon Theatre, Tokyo, and commencing what I’m sure will be a fascinating cultural exchange with Ami Theatre, a Japanese company working with Noh. I’ll be blogging about the experience here and writing an essay for New Welsh Review on our return.


‘TOLD BY THE WIND is easily the most hypnotic piece of theatre I have experienced’   BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE

 ‘fragments of ­memory, speech and gestures, ­composed in moments that have a haunting, painterly beauty… hypnotic…with… the astringent purity of a haiku poem…quietly cleansing…’ [GUARDIAN 4*]

TOLD BY THE WIND tours to Tokyo Theatre Babylon immediately following with Huddersfield performances as part of an exchange between Phillip Zarrilli (Artistic Director, The Llanarth Group) and Okamura Yojiro (Artistic Director, AMI Theatre, Tokyo) toward a future collaborative production. 

Diary of a collaboration….

Sunhee Kim, Jing Okorn-Kuo, Regina Crowley, Bernie Cronin and Jeungsook Yoo in The Llanarth Group's Studio. [Playing] The Maids

Sunhee Kim, Jing Okorn-Kuo, Regina Crowley, Bernie Cronin and Jeungsook Yoo in The Llanarth Group’s Studio. [Playing] The Maids

What an astonishing and intense eight days research and development…

The end of August 2013 has been marked by a week of making, playing, devising, scripting, montaging, collaborating and sharing work in progress with two audiences of [Playing] The Maids, a collaboration between three companies and nine artists from four countries: South Korea (Theatre P’Yut), Ireland (Gaitkrash), Wales (The Llanarth Group) and Singapore.

Each collaborator brought ‘entry points’ to devising, informed by their interpretation of themes from Genet’s The Maids. This may have been a piece of music from cellist Adrian Curtin, or a sound environment created by Mick O’Shea and Adrian for the performers to respond to and dialogue with; sometimes it was found or created text, images, choreography or traditional dance from the individual’s cultural background. The points of entry into collaboration were each explored and shared, and by mid-week we had a list of thirty possible structures (‘scenes’ or components) we could develop further.

At a dramaturgy meeting mid-week Sunhee Kim, Phillip Zarrilli, Bernie Cronin, Regina Crowley and I sat down and worked through the list Phillip and I had compiled, as outside eyes, of the list of raw materials. We identified different compartments including Text, Structured Improvisations, Physical scores/ choreography and ‘mixed’. We then revised each structure, prioritising some for further development that week, and shelving others for future development in a later part of the project. Already some elements were coming together as possible sequences, which we scheduled for montage and further exploration the next two days.

By Saturday, our sixth day together, we had approximately 80 minutes worth of material, some scripted and choreographed, others improvised, which we shared with a small invited audience in the Llanarth Group’s studio in west Wales. It was an informal presentation to artists and those predominantly working in performance, talking through part of the process and putting very raw work up before an audience for the first time. This part of the procedure was immensely fruitful, but not one I would recommend for inexperienced practitioners or a ‘general’ audience. The work can be very delicate so early on in development, and it takes robust, experienced practitioners and knowledgeable, supportive audience members to ensure the work isn’t bruised by such early exposure. Our experience was extremely helpful and informative, and we instantly learnt lessons about the work, the montage, and areas for further revision and development.

[Playing] The Maids performers with Mick O'Shea, Y llofft, Chapter Arts Centre

[Playing] The Maids performers with Mick O’Shea, Y llofft, Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff

Sunday morning we drove in convey to Cardiff and our second informal sharing at Y llofft, Chapter Arts Centre. Informed by the sharing the day before, we revised the structures, trying out new formations and dynamics in a new space. As the larger invited audience arrived, we showed three sequences, in some cases trying out new things for the first time, which was an exhilarating experience for the company as well as the audience. We received extremely positive feedback from the audience afterwards, who were also predominantly made up of those involved in live performance – performers, practitioners and educators. It was an affirming and triumphant end to an extraordinary week, and the company members dispersed to the train station, the night ferry, and Heathrow airport affirmed and extremely excited about the next phase of the development, scheduled for 2014.

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…

Diary of a collaboration. 8 days. Late August 2013.


Where to begin?

The day before rehearsals start. The cliched still before the storm. Or, rather, a very restless, busy ‘stillness’, filled with reading and cleaning and searching and thinking and just standing, looking idly at nothing and everything….

So how do you prepare for a collaborative research and development week with an international group of artists, some of whom you’ve never even met?

We know our jumping off point – Genet’s The Maids. Our director has asked us to gather stimuli and propose specific entry points to themes we individually find in the script.

Various translations of Genet’s The Maids have been read, five beds have been made, bean stew for eleven prepared, travel instructions and directions to a rural location emailed… Music, images, and poetry with some form of resonance have been located, sleep has been interrupted, on and off line research pursued, a Genet biography read, past reviews sucked over, possible costumes envisaged and still I pace and deliciously fret and worry ‘What else…what else?’

One week is a a short time.

One week is a very short time for any form of collaboration, never mind one crammed with ideas and different entry points and diverse perspectives and a large company of five performers, one sound artist, one cellist, one director, three observers and one dramaturg (me). And five languages.

One week is a very short time to begin work with any real comprehension on new material generated by the group, never mind one coming together for the first time with artists from Wales, US, South Korea, Singapore and Ireland.

One week is a very short time to gather recently made material into any kind of comprehensive structure and dramaturgy – never mind then sharing it with a discerning audience of artists.

Which is what we are about to do.

And I shall endeavour to document it this week, end of August 2013.

Fasten your seat belts. It’s gonna be a bumpy (and I hope exhilarating) ride.

THE COLLABORATION is between The Llanarth Group (Wales), Gaitkrash (Rep. of Ireland) and Theatre P’Yut (South Korea).

The project will be performed by a five woman ensemble working multi-linguistically between English, Korean, and Mandarin (with possibly Irish Gaelic, British Sign Language, and German), accompanied by two on-stage musicians.

The artistic team includes:

  • Director: Phillip Zarrilli, LLANARTH GROUP (Wales)
  • Dramaturg/Playwright: Kaite O’Reilly, LLANARTH GROUP (Wales)
  • Soundscape/environment: Mick O’Shea, GAITKRASH, assisted by guest musician/cellist, Adrian Curtin (Ireland/UK)
  • Choreographers: Jing Hong Kuo, LLANARTH GROUP (Singapore), and Jeungsook Yoo (traditional Korean dance, THEATRE P’YUT)
  • Performers: Jing Hong Kuo (LLANARTH GROUP, from Singapore Regina Crowley and Bernie Cronin (GAITKRASH)
  • Jeungsook Yoo and Sunhee Kim (THEATRE P’YUT)


20 Questions….. Johanna Devi.

Earlier this year I started a strand on this blog where I invited a broad spectrum of artists – novelists, sculptors, choreographers, directors, poets, burlesque dancers, playwrights, visual artists, and many more in between – to engage with the same twenty questions about creativity and process. I hoped this might create  interesting and illuminating reading, and an intriguing archive – not just in the often wise and considered answers these individuals give, but as a body of opinion, shaped by experience and form.

I’m delighted to continue this series with dancer and choreographer Johanna Devi, whose complex, graceful, and innovative  work it has been my pleasure to witness in Berlin over the past two years.

Johanna Devi

Johanna Devi

Johanna Devi was trained in contemporary dance and ballet from the age of six at Jessica Iwanson, Munich, Germany. Additionally she has been studying the classical Indian dance form Bharatanatyam in India, Germany, USA and Canada since 1995. She concluded her studies with the ‘arangetram’ in November 2006 in Berlin under Rajyashree Ramesh .
Johanna completed her modern dance training at danceworks-berlin e.V. and at Alvin Ailey School of American Dance Theater in New York City. Besides her dance trainings she studied classical music (piano and music theory) with professors of music universities in Munich, Graz and Berlin.  Since 2007 she has worked as a freelance dancer and choreographer throughout Europe, Canada, the Middle East, India and Cuba. She has danced for companies like Felix Ruckert, Sampradaya Dance Creations, Mavin Khoo, Sadhana Dance, Gwyn Emberton Dance and has created Solo and Company work as a choreographer. In 2012 she founded the Johanna Devi Dance Company in Berlin, Germany. In 2011 she has been invited as one of eight dancers worldwide to perform at the 2nd International Dance Festival (sponsored by ICCR) in Delhi and Chandigarh, India. In 2013 she won the prize for best staging at the 17th International Theater Festival in Baghdad, Iraq (Bernarda Albas Haus; director: Ihsan Othmann, choreography: Johanna Devi)

For further information please also see http://www.johannadevi.com

What first drew you to your particular practice (art/acting/writing, etc)?

I started my dance training (ballet and contemporary/modern dance) as a child. I saw my first Bharatantyam performance when I was about 8 and started to train in that style at 14. I had visited India already and simply wanted to combine my passion for dance and India. Dance and Music just came naturally and easy to me and fulfilled me to an extend that I kept wanting to investigate more. So I feel like I didn’t really make a conscious choice.

What was your big breakthrough?

It’s yet to come…

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?

To define what I am doing.

It seems like people like to label art-forms. But I am dancing inbetween different styles or languages as I like to call it. I am neither a ‘typical’ German contemporary dancer, nor an Indian dancer. I am usually confronted, when talking about my work, with questions like if the dance style I am doing has something to do with folk, ethnic dances, multi culturalism, esoteric spiritualism, Bollywood, belly dancing or other forms of show dancing. But I simply created my own choreographic signature. Merging contemporary dance with Bharatantyam, working with contrasts and just taking selected aspects of the different styles (such as polyrhythm, isolation, coordination, release and flow etc)

What’s more important: form or content?


 Do you read your reviews?


What work of art would you most like to own?

An original (i.e. hand written) score from one of the great composers

 What are you working on now?

I am working on a dance piece with my dance company where rhythm, sound and movement work symbiotically together.  Complex rhythms are made visible and tangible before they are audible.

What do you wish you’d known when you were starting out?

How important it is to stand to yourself and to take the feeling of being ‘different’ as a strength rather than as a feeling of not belonging.

How do you tackle lack of confidence, doubt, or insecurity?

I redirect my focus to a place that is free of my own judgement

 And the best thing?

(translated from German; a review on my production ‘santosham’)

“Moving Poetry
The movements are as soft as velvet, as fluid as water. Fareastern sounds are opening the heart, the soul is exposed. Magnetized one follows each of the soothing, soft gestures of the three dancers. They remind of priestesses of ancient cults, who try to bring themselves in accordance and unison with the world. Classical Indian and contemporary dance merge poetically into one wave, one stream of energy. Again and again one dancer breaks out of the triad of the synchronized movement patterns, tells her own story and depicts physically her conflict. Dynamic and reflection create a mystical dialogue throughout the fingertips of the graceful dancers. Everything flows. (ail)”
100Wort! independent newspaper of 100° Festival 2012, Feb 25th 2012

If you were to create a conceit or metaphor about the creative process, what would it be?

A flexible, transforming and flowing, labyrinth

 What is the single most important thing you’ve learned about the creative life?

To be determined and simultaneously be open to surprises and changes

What is the answer to the question I should have – but didn’t – ask?


Johanna’s showreel from 2012
The trailer for the Johanna Devi Company production called SANTOSHAM

Madam Plaza

Madam Plaza

Madam Plaza

One of the pleasures of being in Berlin is the access to a broad range of performance work, much of which we would not necessarily get to see in the UK.

Last week as part of an African/Arabic festival at HAU, I saw an extraordinary encounter between choreographer Bouchra Ouizguen and three ‘Shikhat’ – female performers in Moroccan society whose singing and dancing are central to public rites of passages. For the majority of Moroccans, Shikhat are an indispensible part of religious and national festivity, called upon to entertain at festivals, weddings, circumcisions, naming ceremonies and henna parties, as well as in cabarets and nightclubs. They are both revered and shunned – an ambiguous role explored in Madam Plaza, the performance named after the nightclub where Ouizigen met her co-performers.

You can see Madam Plaza at LIFT in London 25-26 June, and read my commentary for Exuent magazine here:


Insight, process, opportunities, competitions, TanzKongress

I originally started this blog to write about process from the inside, making three projects and bringing them to production in 2012. Since those furiously creative days, I’m relieved to say my work has been different (I would easily have burned out otherwise!) and I’ve been engaged in several other writing projects, all at different stages in development, more of which, below.

This blog initially was about documenting various processes for a playwright/dramaturg/co-creator, working towards production  (these posts are still available in this blog’s archive). This is still a focus, for I’m interested in exploring the breadth and diversity of the skills a writer may need within any creative process – and it is something I will document again, when in production.

I think there is a myth that we do just one thing – write – (as though that weren’t demanding and challenging enough!). I’m curious about the other elements required for a writing life – the other tools we may need to survive, which include everything from accountancy skills and being able to write outstanding grant applications, to the social skills required for collaboration in the rehearsal room. This is an area I intend to blog about in the future. But I am even more curious with how other artists do it – how do we survive a bad review, little success, disappointing sales, and that doubting dark night of the soul..? This is one reason why I started ’20 Questions…’ to learn from other artists, writers, actors, sculptors and those engaged professionally with creativity how and why we continue to do this. And to be reminded of the inherent value – even necessity – of this compulsion.

And so this blog has continued to evolve, bringing in other voices and opinions rather than being focused solely on my own process when in the doing (although I will for sure do this again, when the opportunity arises). I also have been using it to highlight certain political debates (‘cripping up’, the use of black face in German theatres, ageism and sexism within the profession, etc), and also highlighting certain opportunities and competitions for writers within the UK as well as internationally. When I began this blog, I always wanted to create something that would be useful – and hope this will be the experience for those who trouble to read it.

In the spirit of this, I want to draw attention to the approaching deadline on 31st May 2013 of The Bridport Prize, whose mission is ‘to encourage emerging writers and promote literary excellence through its competition structure.’ Well established, it offers £15,000 in prizes for poetry, short stories, and flash fiction, with judges including Wendy Cope and Michele Roberts. For details of the competitions, please go to: http://www.bridportprize.org.uk

As to me…. so far 2013 has been primarily about completing one large long-standing prose project, delivering the first draft of a theatre commission and initiating new projects in media drama and live performance. Some are my own projects as a solo writer, but others are international collaborations with the Llanarth Group: an Irish/Welsh/Singapore-Chinese/American/South Korean co-creation in the Summer and the other a cultural exchange in Japan late in the year. Meanwhile I will be continuing my fellowship at Freie Universitat’s international research centre ‘Interweaving Performance Cultures’ in Berlin, reflecting on the relationship between ‘mainstream’ and disability cultures.

As part of this, I will be presenting at dance conference  TanzKongress in Dusseldorf on Saturday 8th June: ‘Border Control: Framing the Atypical Body. “You say radical, I say conservative, you say inclusive, I say subversive.”’

The schedule is overwhelming and looks incredibly exciting. For further details go to:


Fragile? Symposium: Dance, Arts, and Visual Impairment.

Fragile? Sympoisum. http://www.fragiledance.com/

Fragile? Sympoisum. http://www.fragiledance.com/







I’ve been invited to give a presentation about some of my work at Tallinn University in Estonia next month, as part of the Fragile? Symposium: Dance, Arts, and Visual Impairment. I’m going to speak about ‘Silent Rhythm’, a project I co-created with Denise Armstrong and Alison Jones for the Liverpool International Live Art Festival years ago, where we used our sensory impairments as the starting point for collaboration and the source of creativity. Details of the event, plus the international contributors follow:

Symposium / Dance, Arts & Visual Impairment



The FRAGILE? Symposium is a European wide gathering of practitioners, participants and academics engaged in the fields of dance / art and visual impairment.

The FRAGILE partners (BÆRUM KULTURHUS (Norway), VO’ARTE (Portugal), TALLINN UNIVERSITY (Estonia) and SALAMANDA TANDEM (England)) have united together to host this stimulating FRAGILE? Symposium in the beautiful city of Tallinn.

The Symposium runs from 19th April to 21st April and will consist of over 18 separate participatory experiences, inclusive presentations, exhibits and performances. Events will be presented by an exciting array of visually impaired and sighted experts from all over Europe debating, showing and performing their work in response to the symposium themes.

Isabel Jones, Artistic Director of Salamanda Tandem, is the symposium curator, and in shaping the themes has devised a programme, around interests and questions arising from the FRAGILE project, from her 30-year of practice in this field and beyond:

•    Art: an inclusive aesthetic
. How inclusive is dance as an art form for visually impaired people? What are we doing to make it more so? What affects are there on the ‘Art’ of an inclusive aesthetic?

•    Training and Work: routes and barriers
What shifts are needed both attitudinal and physical, for visually impaired people to enter the performing arts as professionals? Where, for whom and how has it been done well?

•    Wellbeing: Value and Appreciation. 
Is dance / art valuable to visually impaired people and if so, how? How far does this value extend, and does it extend to audiences?

The symposium is suitable for visually impaired people, teachers, artists, scientists, therapists, performers and researchers working or interested in the specific field of dance, arts and visually impairment.

Throughout the FRAGILE? Symposium, we aim to encourage debate, participation, provocation and appreciation, of the contributions of visually impaired people and their collaborative partners to the fields of dance / performance / wellbeing / and art.

The FRAGILE? Symposium’s list of contributors includes:

Lee Sass – UK

Mick Wallis – UK

Kjersti K. Engebrigtsen – Norway (KED)

Ana Rita Barata – Portugal (Vo’Arte)

Sarah Kettley – UK (Trent University)

Ajjar Ausma – Estonia

Isabel Jones – UK (Salamanda Tandem)

Delphine Demont – France (Acajou)

Said Gharbi & Ana Stegnar – Belgium

Jose Luis Pages – Spain

Dijana Raudoniene – Lithuania

Mickel Smithen – UK

Gregor Strutz – Germany

Per Solvang – Norway (Oslo University)

Maria Oshodi – UK (Extant)

David Feeney – Scotland

Rachel Gadsden – UK

Kaite O’Reilly – UK

Read more about the FRAGILE? Symposium and register on www.tlu.ee/fragile

Rehearsal diaries: In Water I’m Weightless.

Back in the UK and at work on In Water I’m Weightless with National Theatre Wales. Lee and Kim, some young video makers, are documenting the process. Follow the link, below, to a rehearsal with the cast and interview with super-flid Mat Fraser.