Tag Archives: Paul Clay

The Singapore ‘d’ Monologues


Ramesh Meyyappan from his website http://www.rameshmeyyappan.com

As announced at the No Boundaries Conference yesterday by Jo Verrent and Tony Heaton, I have been fortunate to be selected as one of the artists for the Unlimited International Commissions for 2017/18. Full details of all of the commissions can be read here.

It feels even more of a privilege than usual to be supported by funders – and not only that, but to make an international collaboration. The award of this commission is bitter-sweet, especially on this day, Wednesday 29th March 2017, when Teresa May triggers Article 50 and turns her back on European unity. If ever there was a time for coming together and connecting across distance and perceived difference, it is now – and I am grateful to Unlimited and all the funders, allies, and supporters for recognising the value of collaboration and international dialogue, and enabling such things to happen.

The blurb:


Lead artist / Playwright: Kaite O’Reilly

Director: Phillip Zarrilli

Associate Director, Researcher and Performer: Peter Sau

Producer and Researcher: Grace Khoo

Visual Director and Performer: Ramesh Meyyappan

Disability Advisor and Performer: Sarah Beer

Researcher and Performer: Lim Lee Lee

The Singapore ‘d’ Monologues is an international theatrical dialogue of difference, disability, and what it is to be human, from opposite sides of the world. Inspired by previously unrecorded disabled experience, fictionalised monologues will be precedented across multiple languages (spoken/projected/visual), incorporating aesthetics of access. This performance will set an important precedent: the first multilingual, intercultural, disability-led theatre project created between the UK and Singapore.

Award-winning playwright Kaite O’Reilly, and internationally respected director/actor-trainer Phillip Zarrilli will lead the team, joined by veteran disability arts practitioner Sara Beer and Deaf UK-based Singapore-born Ramesh Meyyappan with his innovative visual performance skills. Together with Singaporeans Lee-Lee Lim, Grace Khoo and principle collaborator, Peter Sau, the performance will open up a much-needed discourse of disability in quality, accessible disability-led work, never experienced before in a home-grown Singaporean project.
The background:
I first met Ramesh Meyyappan and Peter Sau in Singapore in the same year, 2004, but in different productions. Peter was performing in a production directed by Phillip Zarrilli at The Esplanade, the graduating production for ITI (Intercultural Theatre Institute, formerly TTRP). There, Peter had the extraordinary privilege to be tutored by T. Sasitharan and the father of Singapore theatre, the visionary Kuo Pao Kun.
Ramesh was presenting his visual theatre adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Tell Tale Heart.’  Contact was firmly established with both independent artists, based on my conviction I would collaborate with them at some time in the future.
Following Ramesh’s work and occasionally participating in his workshops became easy when he relocated to Scotland, where he has been a leading light in physical/visual theatre.  Teaching Dramaturgy at the Intercultural Theatre Institute in Singapore has enabled me to keep in touch with Peter over the years, and he came to train with Phillip Zarrilli and I at the 2015 Summer Intensive in Wales, where the seed which became The Singapore ‘d’ Monologues was planted.
Peter is passionate about ‘theatre with a conscience’ and with his collaborators producer Grace Khoo, and mentee/performer Lee Lee Lim, they are determined to professionalise disability arts in Singapore and open up a much-needed discourse on diversity, disability and difference.
The ‘d’ monologues:

My notion of a portable, flexible, diverse body of work informed by a Deaf and disability perspective and the Social model was initiated in 2008, when Arts Council Wales granted me a Creative Wales to explore the form of the monologue. I am not a fan of verbatim, so had many conversations with disabled and Deaf individuals all over the UK to try and get a sense of lived experience in a disabling world, the political and the personal, spiced by what I call crip’ humour. These encounters inspired a series of monologues I wrote in a variety of styles. These solo texts became the basis of an Unlimited commission, culminating in the 2012 Cultural Olympiad ‘In Water I’m Weightless’ with National Theatre Wales, Wales Millennium Centre and the Southbank Centre.

Cast of ‘In Water I’m Weightless’ by O’Reilly, National Theatre Wales/Southbank Centre 2012, part of the Cultural Olympiad. Cover image of ‘Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors’. Photo: Farrows/Creative

The creative process, directed by John E McGrath with assistant director Sara Beer, choreographed by the late great Nigel Charnock, designed by Paul Clay and featuring six of the leading Deaf and disabled performers in the UK, is fully documented elsewhere on this blog (search In Water I’m Weightless, 2012). The montaged texts from this collaboration are published in my collected ‘Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors’, published by Oberon last year.

This model seemed perfect for a collaboration with Peter and colleagues in Singapore. He, Grace, and Lee Lee would initiate a series of interviews with disabled Singaporeans – lived experience never before documented or shared – and these would create the inspiration for fictional monologues I would write, and the basis of an oral archive. Peter would begin a series of skills-based workshops in Singapore with emerging Deaf and disabled performers, and Ramesh would develop visual theatre sequences.  Phillip Zarrilli would direct emerging work, joined by performer Sara Beer from the UK, with Lee Lee, Peter and Ramesh also performing. It is this r&d stage Unlimited have funded, with the ambition of a full production in Singapore and the UK in 2018.

Style and content of the Singapore ‘d’ Monologues:

We don’t yet know what form and shape this project will take – what tone, what content, what aesthetic – this will all be determined by the next six months and our collaborators. What we do know is the aesthetics of access will be a consideration throughout – and we will have a challenge with translation and captioning in quad-lingual Singapore. We hope our interviewees will have a sense of ownership, and the work will inspire and confound expectation, and the process will be one of symbiosis. I know there will be so much to learn from our Singapore collaborators, and a wealth of riches to be celebrated in this multicultural, intercultural theatre project of communication and dialogue.

UK Collaborators:

Director Phillip Zarrilli and performer Sara Beer are both long-term collaborators. I first worked with Sara with Graeae Theatre in 1987, when, as graduates, we both got our first jobs with this inspiring company. We have worked together consistently ever since, often with Disability Arts Cymru, a great organisation I am proud to be patron of.

Phillip and I have worked internationally as co-creators and collaborators for fifteen years, and has directed many of my plays, recently another Unlimited Commission, ‘Cosy’, which opened at Wales Millennium Centre in March 2016, and featured Sara as the enigmatic Maureen.

Sara Beer as Maureen in ‘Cosy’. Photo: Farrows Creative

What has come clear to me in the writing of this extended blog is the importance of Unlimited in supporting, nurturing and promoting work – in enabling creativity to flourish and artistic careers to thrive. It is such a remarkable hydra organisation with many heads and needs to be congratulated, I feel, for its ground-breaking work and determination to bring about change, its considered efforts for a more equal, and culturally diverse society.

Unlimited is an arts commissioning programme that aims to embed work by disabled artists within the UK and international cultural sectors, reach new audiences and shift perceptions of disabled people. Unlimited has been delivered by the disability-led arts organisation Shape Arts and arts-producing organisation Artsadmin since 2013, and is funded from 2016-20 by Arts Council England, Arts Council of Wales, British Council and Spirit of 2012.

Unlimited and all the funders: thank you.





Making language visual

Turning written text into visual, physical language – transforming words on the page into signs and gestures that take flight….  I love working with Jean St Clair. In her London apartment this week, I worked with her and Sophie Stone, transforming written text from my new play Woman of Flowers into flowing, beautiful visual language.

Jean St Clair's encouraging feedback

Jean St Clair’s encouraging feedback

Although I’ve been working with Jean now for a dozen years on translation and recreating English text into theatricalised sign, I always feel very privileged to be part of the process. We last worked together on Forest Forge’s production of my play peeling, also directed by Kirstie Davis. It’s wonderful to have Jean as our creative sign director.


I send her the speeches from my play which we want physicalised in advance and then Jean asks me questions about my meaning, intention, and preferred aesthetic via email or text. When we gather, she will have already explored possibilities, but will always be led by the performer – in this case Sophie Stone, who will be performing the part in the Forest Forge production when Woman of Flowers tours the UK in the Autumn.


Woman of Flowers is a new play, inspired by elements of the ancient Welsh treasure, The Mabinogion. I’ve been obsessed by the story of Bloudewydd for many years, since I moved to Wales to live.


The story tells of a female ostensibly made from the flowers of the oak and trees in the forest to be companion to a young man cursed by his mother never to have ‘a woman of our race.’ Quite what this ‘ideal’ woman might be has enthralled and perplexed me for years. I explored the notion of  computer generated avatars in Perfect, a piece I made with John McGrath and Paul Clay ten years ago at Contact Theatre, and which won the Manchester Evening News best play of 2004.

Jean St Clair and Sophie Stone working on 'Woman of Flowers'

Jean St Clair and Sophie Stone working on ‘Woman of Flowers’

Woman of Flowers, commissioned by Forest Forge and directed by Kirstie Davis, will be very different. A mixture of prosaic everyday dialogue in spoken English, and the poetic inner thoughts of Rose (played by Sophie) using theatricalised sign, will hopefully be visually stunning and emotionally effecting.


Our rehearsed reading at Salisbury Playhouse earlier in the month left some of the invited audience in tears. Many spoke afterwards of the lyrical nature of Sophie’s spoken and signed language, mentored and polished by Jean’s experienced eye.

I have asked Jean and Sophie if they will guest blog about their process, working between spoken and signed language, between Deaf and hearing cultures. They have agreed, and I can’t wait to share more of this part of the creative process, which is often invisible, hidden from view.

Tour details: http://www.forestforge.co.uk/shows/woman-of-flowers 

A thought-provoking, beautiful piece of theatre: In Water I’m Weightless review







Western Mail/ Wales On-line 

Karen Price

IN the centre of the stage, two actors are discussing the roles they are usually offered.

“I’m always playing zombies,” says one. “The sick and twisted psycho,” says the other. Instead, they dream of being cast as the “fish and chip customer” in EastEnders or the “waiting patient” in Holby City. For the actors – David Toole and Nick Phillips – are disabled and they’re sick of being stereotyped.

Their observations are part of a series of monologues and conversations making up National Theatre Wales’ latest production, In Water I’m Weightless. Director John E McGrath has taken the words of writer Kaite O’Reilly and transformed them into a powerful piece of theatre, shattering any stereotypes.

Staged inside the Wales Millennium Centre’s intimate Weston Studio, five disabled performers get their points across effectively through speech, music, film and both graceful and energetic movement.

During the opening scene, we’re made aware of how life can change in a matter of seconds for any one of us and just how fragile the human body is.

The monologues – which are performed in inventive ways, proving they don’t have to just be delivered from a bar stool – cover everything from growing up with a disability and strangers’ perceptions to being comfortable in your own skin.

We’re reminded that almost all of the brilliant generals were disabled, including Napoleon.

“Impairment, gives you an edge – you have to work harder.”

The performers work brilliantly together and the production, designed by Paul Clay, is slick. What’s all the more incredible is that McGrath had to completely rethink the hour-long show after cast member Mandy Colleran was forced to pull out just hours before the opening night due to injury.

In Water I’m Weightless – staged as part of London 2012 Cultural Olympiad’s Unlimited programme celebrating disability, arts, culture and sport – is a thought-provoking, beautiful piece of theatre which makes you realise that everyone is unique – and equal.

In Water I’m Weightless is at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff until Saturday. Box office: 029 2063 6464

Karen Price

Read More http://www.walesonline.co.uk/showbiz-and-lifestyle/theatre-in-wales/2012/08/01/review-in-water-i-m-weightless-national-theatre-wales-91466-31519500/#ixzz22I0xUdQA

‘A powerful call to arms’ – In Water I’m Weightless review

In Water I’m Weightless

Kaite O’Reilly
National Theatre Wales
Weston Studio, Wales Millennium Centre

From 26 July 2012 to 04 August 2012

British Theatre Guide


Review by Othniel Smith

Commissioned as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, In Water I’m Weightless, National Theatre Wales’s 20th full production, features some of the UK’s most high-profile deaf and disabled performers (although the production was hit by the late, apparently temporary withdrawal of Mandy Colleran through injury, prompting much re-jigging), in what is something of a trippy multi-media cabaret.

Starting with the sobering “there but for the grace of God” reminder that we could all be a second away from ourselves becoming disabled, we’re taken on a whirlwind ride through various aspects of the experience of disability via monologues, dance interludes, and a barrage of text and images (still and moving, live and recorded) delivered via ten spherical monitors and a more conventional screen at the back of the stage.

The text is by Kaite O’Reilly, much—but by no means all—of whose work as a playwright centres around issues of impairment (e.g. her affecting brain-injury drama The Almond And The Seahorse, which was one of my highlights of 2008), and who has done much to foreground performers with disabilities; it is derived largely from interviews carried out over a number of years, although one must presume that the actors themselves have had some input here, given the broad—perhaps too broad—range of realities depicted.

Confrontation is a major theme—the body is described as a war-zone, with cells attacking one another; individuals are constantly at war with the perceptions of others, well-meaning and otherwise; we are reminded of the large number of military leaders whose capabilities have been enhanced by their own disabilities. Director John McGrath, in collaboration with choreographer Nigel Charnock, stresses the actors’ physicality at all times, although some of the most striking moments are the simplest—such as Mat Fraser dancing frenziedly to the Sex Pistols while unseen hands scrawl noise-orientated words on the backdrop, or Karina Jones rolling provocatively on the floor.

Sophie Stone’s riff on demeaning comments “overheard” by those adept at lip-reading provides the most laughs, albeit uneasy ones; one imagines, though, that the skit in which disabled actors complain about stereotyping might be received with a mildly sardonic chuckle by those belonging to other minorities, and perhaps the wider community of mostly unemployed performers.

Reflections on the feelings of dislocation engendered by having one’s hearing restored seem to belong to an entirely different play, and while Nick Phillips’s monologue about having his beer can mistaken for a collecting-tin is amusing, it suffers from being repeated. Just when one is beginning to crave more of a narrative focus, however, David Toole delivers a climactic, angrily polemical speech, a powerful call to arms, and the culmination of a perversely celebratory evening.

Indeed, the cast are uniformly charismatic, and even though the production is technically impressive and the writing as sharp as might be expected, it is the performances which leave a lasting impression.

Provocative and stimulating: In Water I’m Weightless review and links to interviews

A photo from the dress rehearsal, with the full cast of In Water I’m Weightless. Photo: Kaite O’Reilly

Reviews and interviews for In Water I’m Weightless continue – see below for links.

The Public Reviews:


Writer: Kaite O’Reilly

Director: John E McGrath

Reviewer: Emily Pearce

The Public Reviews Rating: 4 stars

In Water I’m Weightless is the latest offering from the innovative National Theatre Wales that is insistent throughout in its challenge of the ways disability is perceived. Five performers (unfortunately Mandy Colleran was indisposed for this performance) each speak of their lives, routines and the ideals they hold dear. It is a bold piece, often stark in its ability to flip perceived public assumption, highlighted throughout by Paul Clay’s simple, yet stylish set design.

The pace is unrelenting in its unpredictability; every time there is a hint that the piece may become stagnant, it lurches in an altogether unexpected direction. Lurches is the word though, as occasionally a little more cohesion between segments would have been preferable, but then, perhaps that is the point of the play. Although occasionally an elegant mess – it would be difficult to analyse a structure or plotline – it is nonetheless beautiful in its imperfection and one gets the impression that writer Kaite O’Reilly would have it no other way.

In Water I’m Weightless is uncompromising in addressing the different reactions to disability; from independence to ignorance, there are times when it is easy to be moved to tears by the anger, vehemence, as well as spirit and the sheer the joie de vivre that springs from the different monologues, but that is not what this piece sets out to do. Pity is treated with disdain; sympathy is revealed as patronizing – the play clearly sets out its agenda for challenging what the public might think is acceptable behaviour, often it is revealed as not.

It also references what happens when a disability is reversed; in this case Sophie Stone’s hearing is restored. She describes the longing for silence and how even the heart pumping disturbs after years of blissful peace. Her defiant statement, “I love my body,” resonates and returns many times throughout the play.

What sets In Water I’m Weightless apart is that although disability is the topic of choice, the play transcends this. The actors don’t just describe living with a disability, they depict lives filled with emotion, circumstance and a vulnerability that everyman can identify with. This is a celebration of humanity, of the body, of character and resilience, in all forms.

The fantastic David O’Toole ends with the almost Shakespearean monologue; challenging the very definition of disability in the war-cry like rallying call of “You marvel! You scientific enigma! You medical conundrum…that both proves Darwin and disproves Darwin!” After witnessing this provocative and stimulating play, you’d be hard pressed not to agree with him.


KOR writes:  Please do note that In Water I’m Weightless is a series of fictional monologues I have written, montaged and performed by the cast. Like any other professional performer, they are playing fictional parts written by me, with no connection to their actual lives and experiences. Therefore please assume the reference to Sophie Stone, above, is outlining the story of a fictional character Sophie plays (one of many) and not her personal experience.


To listen to an interview with Sophie Stone on Radio Cardiff, please go to: – http://official.fm/tracks/8cur

To listen to Kaite O’Reilly and Sara Beer on Big Scott’s show on Radio Cardiff, please go to:

A rallying cry almost worthy of Shakespeare. In Water I’m Weightless review










In Water I’m Weightless, National Theatre Wales

Five disabled actors give an impressionistic glimpse of themselves

by Tuesday, 31 July 201

Adrian Burley MP would probably call In Water I’m Weightless “leftie multicultural crap”. I’d like to bestow similar praise. In common with Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening ceremony, director John McGrath’s exploration of issues facing disabled people is a bit of a mess, a bit of a tick-box exercise and thoroughly enjoyable.

The play is a rallying cry for the civil rights of the disabled, and wears its politics somewhat heavily. But despite some meanderings in the middle, by the time we reach writer Kaite O’Reilly’s epic final monologue, a paean to the “gen of the genome”, “the glorious freak[s] of nature” who “broaden the scope of homosapien possibilities”, worthy almost of Shakespeare in its rhythm and intensity, and wonderfully delivered by David Toole (pictured below), there is a feeling that we have been confronted.

But with what? For the most part, the play is a loosely connected series of impressions: sign language, fragments of text, anecdotes, powerful music in a bewildering array of styles. There is little to connect these disparate elements but the fact that all of the five members of the cast have a disability. They are partially-sighted, deaf and dumb, paralysed or somehow physically deformed. Not too long ago, the only type of theatre open to these performers would have been in a freak show. In Water I’m Weightless is not without humour, and there is a moment of comedy when two of the actors discuss their recent roles: “always the monster”, “misunderstood evil genius” or, “worst of all, plot device”.

There is no such danger here, as the five actors are offered a rare opportunity to give us a glimpse of themselves, or at least a version thereof. Against Paul Clay’s simple but effective backdrop of projection screen and giant globules, which act variously as thought bubbles, water droplets and bodily cells, the cast each give a fantastic account of themselves. “Don’t patronise me,” says Karina Jones’ character at one point, and among all the familiar and less familiar things we hear that disabled people have to put up with on a daily basis – there is also a section titled “Things I Have Lipread” – this would seem to be one which grates the most.

Jones (pictured left)also has the pleasure of delivering some of O’Reilly’s best passages, a layered metaphor about “your very being a warzone carried out at molecular level” culminating in the horrific image of “that fleshy Dresden”, which nevertheless the character has learnt to love. Ultimately, In Water I’m Weightless is a celebration of disabled human beings – their bodies, their minds and their souls. And although it oscillates rather wildly between wigging out to the Sex Pistols and Shirley Bassey and reflections on perceiving other human beings in terms boiling down to use of taxpayers’ money like the theatrical equivalent of a loud/quiet/loud Nirvana song, it succeeds far more often than it fails.

Tech rehearsal – In Water I’m Weightless

Karina Jones – In Water I’m Weightless – tech rehearsal

I love technical rehearsals – it’s when all the elements come together and we begin to get a sense of what the show, with all its components, will look like. Never is this more the case as when working on such a large collaboration with so many aspects – spoken, signed, and projected text; live action and choreography; live and pre-recorded film.

DSM Sarah Thomas standing in for actors in tech’.

This is also the time when the work of our fabulous designer and video artist, Paul Clay, truly comes into its own. It’s hugely tempting to reveal his work, so it is with restraint I reproduce these incidental images and hold back on his more spectacular visuals.

From monologues written alone, over an extended period – words on the page – we move into this complex, multi-layered theatrical experience – and I feel incredibly fortunate in what I do.

Slow mo’ filming, audio description, and the Radio Wales Arts Show








Mat Fraser recording his part of the audio description CD/download for In Water I’m Weightless.

It is, I think, a most peculiar way to make a living. No two days are the same and my working life at the moment is of such a surreal quality, normally loquacious taxi drivers are silent as I outline the activity….

‘Today at work I’m observing slow motion filming of water being poured onto various parts of various actors’ bodies…’

Still, that’s probably nothing compared to what Jacob probably said when he got home for tea that night (‘Well, I hung off the top of a ladder and had to pour a stream of water from a glass jug onto a specific mark on the bare shoulder of Karina Jones, whilst a group of men watched and filmed it’).








Jacob, Karina and the crew slow mo filming

We are in the final week of rehearsals for In Water I’m Weightless with National Theatre Wales – a week filled with media activity as well as intense rehearsals and run-throughs.

It is our designer, Paul Clay, who has brought the slow motion filming and mediatised elements into the production. An accomplished designer and artist, he also live video mixes in the underground club scene of New York, where he lives.

The design and visual world of the play is a response to the poetic conceits at work in the text – the weightlessness from floating in water, and the sense of freedom and liberation this creates (see my earlier blog about filming stunt dives).

This is in direct contrast to the weight of prejudices, fear, and preconceptions usually loaded onto the disabled body. It was our director (and artistic director of NTW), John McGrath, who pulled out this quotation ‘In Water I’m Weightless’ from the large body of monologues I have written over the past few years, and from which the text of this montaged production is taken.

This is my second show with Paul, and John. The first, Perfect, at Contact Theatre in Manchester, also had a strongly visual component and won Paul the M.E.N award for best design of 2004, whilst I won best play. It is wonderful to be back in a rehearsal room with both, aware of the growth in experience, skill, and stature since we last collaborated.






Designer Paul Clay recording a description of his set, costumes, and visual/video artwork on In Water I’m Weightless for visually impaired and blind audience members.

As In Water I’m Weightless is an Unlimited commission, part of the Cultural Olympiad promoting the work of Deaf and disabled artists, we are keen to make the work as accessible as possible – which brings us to the second mediatised experience of the week.

Karina Jones, one of the cast, suggested we prepare a pre-show recording for visually impaired and blind audience members, so they would have a sense of some of the visual and physical aspects of the work. One performance at the Wales Millennium Centre will have live audio description (a headset is provided for audience members, if required, and during the performance a description of action and visual elements is relayed), but we were all excited with Karina’s suggestion. I provided bullet-points for the performers to use as stimulus – a description of their bodies, costumes, and the dance/movement sequences – and Paul spoke about the visuals and his design concept. Mike Beer recorded them, and this should be available prior to the show at Wales Millennium Centre as a CD, and also hopefully as a download from NTW’s website.

The final media experience of the week occurred on Thursday, when cast member Nick Phillips and I were guests on the BBC Radio Wales Arts Show, with Nicola Heywood Thomas. The interview will be available for the next few days as ‘listen again’ on:


Unlimited Abilities: article on In Water I’m Weightless





Confounding expectations and challenging preconceptions are the avowed aims of In Water I’m Weightless – the latest production from National Theatre Wales. KAREN PRICE of The Western Mail/Wales Online met the writer and director of this provocative new work. 

17th July 2012.


Monologues will be delivered in a series of innovative ways when a cast of deaf and disabled performers take to the stage for an Olympic celebration. Karen Price meets the writer and director of the new production.

After receiving a Creative Wales Award in 2008, writer Kaite O’Reilly decided to use the funding to explore monologues. Four years on, her project is coming to fruition in the shape of a major performance produced by National Theatre Wales as part of the Olympic celebrations.

In Water I’m Weightless takes a provocative look at the body and will be staged in Cardiff and London by a cast of six deaf and disabled performers.

Combining movement and live projections, O’Reilly’s poetic, poignant and, at times, humorous texts are inspired by the imagination, experiences and attitudes of disabled people across the UK.

“As a playwright, I’d always written multiple parts and not approached monologues,” says the West Wales-based writer whose theatre credits include The Almond And The Seahorse (Sherman Cymru) and The Persians (National Theatre Wales).

“So after receiving the Creative Wales Award I explored the form of the monologue and was mentored by various experts. I also started writing a large body of work that was specifically for deaf and disabled performers reflecting their experiences.

“I’d been very frustrated at the huge amount of plays that represent disability but they often fall into negative stereotypes.  I wanted to present something from a different perspective  and I also wanted to ensure the piece was performed by deaf and disabled actors as there are so many fabulous performers out there.”

O’Reilly spoke to John McGrath, the artistic director of National Theatre Wales about the project she was working on – they had collaborated in the past when she adapted The Persians,based on Aeschylus’ original work, for NTW’s inaugural opening season.

Staged on a military range in the Brecon Beacons, it won acclaim from both audiences and critics – and Kaite went on to win the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry for her efforts.

So when O’Reilly received a commission for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad’s Unlimited programme celebrating disability, arts, culture and sport, NTW were keen to come on board as producers.

Directed by McGrath, In Water I’m Weightless will be staged at the intimate Weston Studio at the WMC – the first time NTW has worked at the venue – before there are three performances  at London’s Southbank Centre.

“It’s great to work with Kaite again on something that’s completely different from The Persians and this touches upon a lot of experiences which are rarely performed on stage,” says McGrath.

“When people think of monologues they often think they will be performed like The Vagina Monologues or a piece of stand up comedy – by people sitting on a stool on the stage. But we wanted to play around with the different ways that monologues can work in the theatre.”

In Water I’m Weightless is a multi-media performance which celebrates the athleticism of the performers through some clever choreography.  It also incorporates film and music, including tracks from Dame Shirley Bassey and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

The six cast members – Mandy Colleran, Mat Fraser, Karina Jones, Nick Phillips, Sophie Stone and David Toole – all come from different performance backgrounds and had a say on which monologues should be chosen for the production.

“We wanted six performers who were incredibly different from each other who would bring unique personalities to the stage,” says McGrath. “The piece has got so many moods – it’s funny and very poetic sometimes. It’s not at all what people might imagine when they think about theatre and disability.”

Both O’Reilly and McGrath are keen to show audiences how theatre can break away from stereotypes when it comes to disabled performers.

“There are often so many cliches but this is nothing like that.”

McGrath is collaborating once more with award-winning New York designer and media artist Paul Clay on the set and costume designs.

“The production features some amazing costumes which really work with the simple set.”

The set itself has a big screen backdrop and a series of suspended lights onto which film footage will appear.

With little over a week to go until In Water I’m Weightless is premiered, McGrath admits that the rehearsal process has very much been improvised.

“The monologues haven’t been written in any particular order so we’ve been moving them around. It’s more like constructing a dance show rather than a theatre play when you have a beginning, a middle and an end.”

In Water I’m Weightless is at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, from July 26 to August 4. There will be a post-show discussion on August 2. The box office number is 029 2063 6464

David Toole’s stunt dives – In Water I’m Weightless

Today rehearsals are unnusual, in that we have a slow motion film shoot for the production In Water I’m Weightless. Designer and artist Paul Clay has transformed the dance studio in Wales Millennium Centre where we are rehearsing into a film set.








David Toole on the film set In Water I’m Weightless.

The performers all choose short movement sequences to film in slow motion, but the day begins with Paul capturing the cast weightless, in mid-air.




Dave preparing for his stunt dive.





The title of the production comes from one of my monologues and was chosen not just for its lyricism but sense of liberation – being free of constraints, liberated from the weight of prejudice and preconceptions associated with the disabled body.








The session was exhilarating, especially the verve and power in David Toole’s stunt dives, hurling himself from his wheelchair, flying momentarily through the air.

photos by Kaite O’Reilly