Tag Archives: Kiruna Stamell

Remaking… inspiration from existing texts

Reigen, better known as La Ronde, was written by Arthur Schnitzler in 1897, and was published a few years later, solely for private circulation. The play reveals the sexual morals and mores of a society, across all echelons, revealing hypocrisy but also how sex, like death, is the great leveller, regardless of status. In a series of duologues, the audience follows the characters through various encounters – the whore and the soldier, the soldier and the maid, the maid and the young gentleman, the young gentleman and the politician’s wife, and so on, around and around, until we turn full circle with the last encounter, the count and the initial streetwalking whore.

There have been many adaptations of the script over the years, most famously with David Hare’s two-hander, The Blue Room (1994) and Joe DiPietro’s Fucking Men, an exploration of sex in New York’s early days of HIV/AIDS. Schnitzler’s script has been used as a warning against sexually transmitted diseases since its inception, revealing how STDs are not limited to the lower classes, but can run through every layer of polite and not so polite society.

When director Kirstie Davis was approached by LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) to partner up with a writer for their Long Project, she thought of me. We’d collaborated on several other projects – Woman of Flowers, her commission to me from Forest Forge Theatre, and her fabulous re-imagining of my script peeling, with Kiruna Stamell, Ali Briggs and Nicola Miles-Wildin. I love working with Kirstie. As a director she is imaginative, discerning, supportive and full of integrity. It’s always a joy to work with her – in so many ways she really is a playwright’s dream collaborator.

As the LAMDA commission would be for graduating actors going into the world, we wanted to make work which showcased each actor’s individual skills and so reveal their scope. I thought of the structure of La Ronde, with its interlocking ‘daisy chain’ dramaturgy, enabling actors to be in two different duologue-scenes, thereby enabling diversity in what each performer does, and creating parity in stage time. This is not a text with lead and minor parts – all parts are equal in length and importance, with a deliberate mixture of interactive dialogue and monologue for each character.

Lie With Me is not an adaptation of Schnitzler’s text, but is inspired by it. I have taken certain aspects of the original – the circular dramaturgy, the notion of characters from different strata in society engaging – but my piece focuses on a broader representation of encounters, not just sexual, as in the original. I wanted to explore identity culture and how a character may change according to the context they are in, and whom they are interacting with. I also wanted to respond to the times we live in – the contradictions, deceptions and interactions in a ‘post-truth’ contemporary urban setting. My title is carefully chosen, reflecting, I hope, both the original inspiration and the often deceptive lives we lead in a world of ‘fake news’ and an ambiguous moral compass.

Rehearsals start next week, after I complete my fellowship at International Research centre ‘Interweaving Performance Cultures’ attached to Freie Universitat in Berlin. I will be flying to London to start rehearsals. Watch this space.




Lie With Me

by Kaite O’Reilly

13  19 July

The LAMDA Linbury Studio, London.

A world première, inspired by La Ronde, an exploration of the connections and degrees of separation between individuals in post-truth, contemporary urban life. Information here

New beginnings and first drafts…. and in praise of rural touring…

Woman of Flowers. Kaite O'Reilly for Forest Forge Theatre Company

Woman of Flowers. Kaite O’Reilly for Forest Forge Theatre Company

As the new year approaches, I have a new project: a commission from Forest Forge to write a play for their 2014 national tour.

I first worked with Forest Forge theatre company in 2011, when the artistic director, Kirstie Davies, had the inspired idea of producing my play ‘peeling’ and then touring it to village halls in rural areas. ‘peeling’ is a metatheatrical exploration of acting, eugenics, soup recipes, disability and Deaf politics and ‘The Trojen Women’, performed by one Deaf and two disabled performers across a variety of theatre languages… It’s a set text at various universities in Europe, Japan and elsewhere in the world for its radical politics and experimental form.

What I love about Forest Forge and Kirstie’s vision is alongside their national touring, they bring plays into the heart of a rural community – places often overlooked for cultural provision, many miles from building-based theatres and arts centres. What I particularly love is Kirstie’s decision to bring what might be perceived as ‘difficult’, or challenging plays. She doesn’t patronise her audience and well understands how people living outside cities have as broad a taste as those living within, and have just as strong a desire to see ‘edgy’ work. I’m always frustrated by the capital’s assumption that the ‘important’ work happens in the city, when with companies like Knee High, and the National Theatres of Wales and Scotland, some of the most innovative and risk-taking work has been taking place for years very far from the metropolis.

There is also an assumption I’ve come across in city-based theatre circles that rural audiences are somehow less adventurous or ‘able’ for work that pushes the boundaries. As a theatre maker, and someone who lives rurally, I couldn’t disagree more. Back in 2011, when I visited the production when it was touring, performers Ali Briggs, Kiruna Stamell and Nickie Miles-Wildin all spoke of the astonishing response to the work from the audience.  Roger Finn, an audience member wrote on the Forest Forge website: This is what I want from theatre – to be taken into new territories; to experience deep, human contact; to have my brain tickled and to discover new places in my heart. A true joy to go on this bold adventure. http://www.forestforge.co.uk/shows/peeling

As a playwright, and as someone who lives an hour’s drive from the nearest ‘cultural centre’, it feels a real privilege for my work to be brought to the audience in their communities – but we really need to challenge the assumption the edgy or important work happens only in cities.

And so to my burgeoning new play, set far from a city, on the edge of a forest… Woman of Flowers is inspired by the story of Blodeuwedd, from the ancient Welsh treasure The Mabinogion – a story I have known for decades, since before moving to live in Wales, and one which has captured my imagination.

I’m only starting out on this process, but the script won’t be an adaptation of this great classic, I’ll simply be taking themes and ideas from the original and try to give it a contemporary twist. So far my Woman of Flowers is a stylised telling of desire, duty, adultery, murder and revenge set in an isolated, rural household on the edge of a forest. The production will be presented in spoken and projected English with theatricalised British Sign Language. I will write about the process when the work is sturdy enough to bring into the public gaze, so until then… Good luck with all your writing and creativity….

20 Questions….. Kiruna Stamell

Continuing the 20 questions series… I ask playwrights, performers, sculptors, directors, novelists, poets, dancers, short story writers and anyone else creative and interesting in between the same 20 questions, with various results. This time I ask the fabulous Kiruna Stamell to participate….

20 Questions… Kiruna Stamell

Kiruna Stamell

Kiruna Stamell

Kiruna Stamell is an actress with more than 13 years’ experience, as well as a classically-trained contemporary dancer.  In 1999 she got her first professional gig while at University, making her début in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge. She used the pay cheque to come to England and study Shakespeare and Jacobean Theatre at London Academy of Music and Recognisable for her roles on the BBC’s ‘All The Small Things’, ‘Eastenders’, ‘Life’s too short’ and Channel 4’s, ‘Cast-offs’, she will this year be appearing alongside Geoffry Rush in Guiseppe Tornatore’s film ‘The Best Offer’. Her contemporary dance work has taken place between Australia and Sweden with choreographers such as John O’Connell (Aus), Sue Healey (Aus), Shaun Parker (Aus) and Christina Tingskog (Sweden), as well as Mimbre (UK) for a season at Watch This Space outside the National Theatre.


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

 I think it was a television programme in Australia called ‘Young Talent Time’. I love dancing and as I got older I developed an interest in debating and public speaking too. At high school my speeches moved closer towards performance and monologue. At university words and movement had an opportunity to really mesh when I got involved in the drama society and contemporary dance scene.

What was your big breakthrough?

‘Moulin Rouge’ directed by Baz Luhrmann, it bought me financial freedom to learn to drive and come to the UK. I was able to access new places and communities where my dwarfism was viewed positively and culturally enriching, rather than as a barrier to an arts career (which was the predominant view in Australia). It was an opportunity to get about without my parent’s help and experience a financial and cultural independence.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work/process?

Finding meaningful and fulfilling work as an actress with dwarfism. It is the lack of security in being self-employed, that also makes that particularly hard. I could sell out and ‘exhibit’ myself in nightclubs because there is still a market for that in our society and live quite well off that income. However, I want to reflect the real world and change people’s prejudice’s not reinforce their already restrictive ideas. The representation of people with dwarfism in the mainstream media is mostly hostile and ridiculing, with the exception of a few roles.

 Is there a piece of art, or a book, or a play, which changed you?

Peeling’ a play you wrote had a massive impact. ‘Stone’s from the River’ a book by Ursula Hegi, I wish they’d turn that into a film… maybe I should… Betty Adelson’s, Dwarfs from ‘public curiosity to social liberation’. I also have to mention ‘The Station Agent’.

They all highlighted the richness of the lives of little people and removed themselves from the horrible fascination many things written about us never quite get over and seem to get stuck on.

What’s more important: form or content?


How do you know when a project is finished?

When you begin to feel like you are putting more energy and passion into it, than you are getting out of it.

Do you read your reviews?


What advice would you give a young writer/practitioner?

Just keep doing it. Toil away and find alternative ways to get your work out there. Don’t be too humble either, good work doesn’t always get noticed. Listen to feedback from people you trust. Pay attention to rejection, it gets you closer to being on the right path and working with the people who do appreciate your talent and want to be on your team.

What work of art would you most like to own?

There is a bookshelf that is really well designed by a French interior designer Olivier Dolle. It is shaped like a tree branch and reaches out from a corner of the room across a long wall. I’d like to have that for my books.

What’s the biggest myth about writing/the creative process?

That it just happens, requires no effort, is not worthy of being a real job. All untrue.

What are you working on now?

Starting up my own company to produce a two-hander stand-up rom-com written by me and my husband Gareth Berliner. The show is called ‘A Little Commitment’. Also I am about to get stuck into some contemporary dance/theatre in Australia with choreographer Shaun Parker and another dance based project with choreographer Marc Brew.

What is the piece of art/novel/collection/ you wish you’d created?

I am happy for those original authors/artists to keep their names to their creations. If I had created them, they wouldn’t be the works they are… they’d be something else entirely.

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

That an accounting qualification could really help. Or that having something you can dip into casually when you aren’t funded for your creativity can take the fear out of a mortgage.

What’s your greatest ambition?

To change perceptions of difference and challenge the body fascism that’s become so pervasive in our culture. I hope in someways I do this just by being and getting on with my life and vocation. Maintaining integrity is so important to this goal.

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

Occasionally, I curl up and ignore the world for a day. I accept support from friends, family and the cultural community.

What is the worst thing anyone said/wrote about your work?

“I wasn’t expecting that… I wasn’t expecting that… [repeated several times]” Kimberly Wyatt, when surprised by my being able to actually dance, on sky’s Got To Dance.

And the best thing?

“Petite dynamo sparkles in energetic body of work.” A review of my first ever piece of choreography.

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

It’s a discipline, to which you must apply yourself.

What is your philosophy or life motto?

Each project should aim to be a personal best. This isn’t always going to happen but that should be the aim.

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

Getting a casual day job as a waitress or barmaid, if you have dwarfism is almost impossible.

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

I think it asks how much you really wanted ‘it’. 

For further information on Kiruna, see:

www.kirunastamell.net and www.alittlecommitment.com

LeanerFasterStronger: bodies in motion, extraordinary moves



Alan Martin and Kevin Edward Turner in the motion capture lab, Sheffield Hallam Sports Science Centre. Extraordinary Moves: research week.

all photographs by Kaite O’Reilly.


‘Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.”  Albert Szent-Gyorgyi. Hungarian biochemist and 1937 winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

I’m in Canada, revising the next draft of LeanerFasterStronger, the Cultural Olympiad commission from Chol Theatre in a co-production with Sheffield Theatres. The project is part of Extraordinary Moves, a major strand of the imove programme, which celebrates and challenges the relationship between people and their moving bodies through a series of innovative arts projects across Yorkshire.

One of the processes I use when redrafting is to go back and revisit all the source material. I’ve found that when there is a ‘hole’ in a developed draft, or a problem to be solved, invariably the missing link is offered up somewhere in the research material and earlier drafts. So it is with delight I’m in the process of reviewing my documentation of our research week at Sheffield Hallam Sports Science Lab, organised by Susan Burns of Chol Theatre in partnership with XMoves co-producer Dr David James. I’m further aided in my revision by a documentary directed by Andy Duggan to be shown later this year at Leeds International Film Festival.








‘Extraordinary moves celebrates human movement’, Laura Haughey said, introducing me to the motion capture lab, where performers, choreographers, dancers, directors, scientists and this writer spent a week exploring movement potential and our relationship to moving bodies.

My first introduction to sports science technology was through infra red cameras. ‘Dots’ applied to the joints and other parts of the body ‘captured’ the subject in space and reproduced the physical sequence on a computer screen as lines of movement. This in effect erased the human form, creating instead an arresting constellation of dots. When these were joined up, ‘stick’ men and women moved on the computer screen, clearly revealing how very different bodies move in space.


Kiruna Stamell being ‘dotted up’ by Laura Haughey






Some participants didn’t distinguish the avatar body as their own until they saw a recognisable movement trait, or an interaction with a cane, or what we coined the ‘magic carpet’ levitation provided by a unmarked moving wheelchair.



Nadia caught between the many infra-red cameras.




There has been a long cultural and linguistic practice of assigning meaning to the impaired body and I was particularly interested in discovering how this changed when the body was represented in such a different form. Part of my role was to facilitate discussion and reflection after the sessions, so I asked the politicised disabled performer/  dancers how they responded to this ‘new’ mode of representation of themselves.

‘I liked the experience of seeing a non-disabled version of myself’ Kiruna Stamell said. ‘It meant the movement could be analysed without social judgement of the body, without judgement of the politics… Just to see the pure movement! The judgement around my physicality is more about my physical relationship as a disabled woman to an environment I’m in, not a judgement on my body as a judgement on my body.’


Participants included Sam Jacobs, Kiruna Stamell, Nadia Adame, Dan Edge, Nadia Clarke, Alan Ward, and Company Chameleon’s Anthony Nissen and Kevin Edward Turner.



Other activity that week included a physical workshop led by Andrew Loretto, working with two disabled and two non-disabled dancers, working with high speed cameras to capture the subtle movements and interactions not seen by the naked eye.



Nadia and Anthony exploring speed, status, and levels of engagement


.’We’re interested in how people move, and what moves them’ Laura said t‘We’re interested in how people move, and what moves them’ Laura said to camera at the start of the day. What struck me was the speed and intensity of engagement –  the immediate and complex negotiations of equal bodies and space – the marked moments of tenderness, or of pure joy.

For further footage of this extraordinary research week, please view Andy Duggan’s award-nominated film at:









(c) Kaite O’Reilly 11/10/11