Tag Archives: dramaturg’s role

When O’Reilly met Rationale: a dramaturg and Hip Hop Theatre

Nathan Geering. Photo: Tim Thumb

Nathan Geering. Photo: Tim Thumb

Andrew Loretto knows something about matchmaking. He knows about dynamics and temperaments, work ethos and attitude, about hunger and curiosity. As creative producer of Right Up My Street, Andrew knows about bringing artists together to collaborate and challenge and expand each others’ practice….Which is just what’s happened to me last month, working with Rationale in Doncaster – hip hop theatre.

Andrew put lead artist Nathan Geering and I in contact weeks before the residency, and we quickly achieved an open and engaged correspondence. The company are researching and starting to make a new piece of performance, inspired initially by visual impairment. As a viz imp myself, I sent through a lot of research material – from vlogs by visually impaired people addressing FAQs (‘how do you put make up on if you’re blind?… What do guide dogs actually do?… Do visually impaired people ‘see’ in their dreams? etc, etc), some beautiful videos about blind visual artists (that paradox in terms got brains buzzing) and also work written from within disability arts and culture about visual impairment, including my own first piece ‘Fragments on a Fragmentary Vision’, first published over twenty years ago.

Nathan Geering, Nathan Geering  Hung Nguyen, Sarah Grace Hobson, Torrell Ewan Photo: Richard Codd / Team Katalyst

Nathan Geering,Hung Nguyen,
Sarah Grace Hobson, Torrell Ewan
Photo: Richard Codd / Team Katalyst

A dramaturg’s role will change in every context, and  in this one I was initially encouraged to inform and educate the company around visual impairment and related disability issues, both culturally and politically. Andrew also has a visual impairment, so once we were in the rehearsal room together, there was embodied, lived experience available, as well as the research material I had provided.

In a very short time it became clear that what the company were exploring was not partial sight per se, but ways of seeing – different perceptions. Rationale shared some exploratory choreography with us, and Andrew and I both got excited – not just at the invention and gravity-defying moves the performers made, but from our realisation much of the work, when low on the floor,  was more readily accessible to us than other dance forms. This, combined with the company’s interest and commitment to the area shows great promise for the future – especially as Nathan wants to train and work with VI b-boys. (Would any individual or company interested in exploring this with Nathan and Rationale, please get in touch via their contacts at the end of this piece… They come highly recommended and I want to see viz imp hip-hop and street dancing!)

Rationale, O'Reilly and Andrew Loretto. Photo: Richard Codd/Team Katalyst

Rationale, O’Reilly and Andrew Loretto. Photo: Richard Codd/Team Katalyst

What I loved most about working with this passionate and open company was how they brought me immediately into the heart of the company, challenging me as much as I did them. They got me up in the space, reading ‘Fragments’ in a loop as they improvised and responded physically to the words. Hung Nguyen pushed me to dialogue with them, changing the tempo-rhythm and speed of my reading to create counter-point and resonance with their power moves. Alongside the exercises Andrew gave us, and the tasks Nathan set (‘this includes you, Andrew and Kaite –  get into the space and move!’) I spent as much time on the floor working with the dancers as I did sitting outside, being that dramaturgical ‘outside’ eye.

Another impact Hung, Nathan, Torrell Ewan and Sarah Hobson had on my work was the realisation the meter I had written ‘Fragments’ in was strong and particular and not always conducive to their rhythms and moves. So suddenly the dramaturg is wide awake in the small hours writing text for the company to explore in meter and rhyme (I DO NOT WRITE LIKE THIS! HOW EXCITING!! I kept writing in my notebook like Adrian Mole circa-1986).

O'Reilly and Sarah Hobson. Rationale. Photo: Richard Codd/Team Katalyst

O’Reilly and Sarah Hobson. Rationale. Photo: Richard Codd/Team Katalyst

At the end of the three days together, not only had the company moved on considerably from the starting place, but they had seeded some potentially exceptional work utilising the speed, precision and emotional engagement Rationale have become known for. Their work is virtuosic, their minds open and hearts full. It was a privilege to work with a company so grounded whilst their dance flies and I am grateful to Andrew Loretto for his careful steering during the workshops, and his fabulous match-making.



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