Tag Archives: Taking Flight Theatre Company

What a week! Award nominations, reviews, publications and research and development….

It’s been quite a week…..

On Monday we learned my Unlimited international commission And Suddenly I Disappear: The Singapore/UK ‘d’ Monologues has been nominated for Best Ensemble at The Singapore Theatre Awards. This is wonderful news, particularly from a disability perspective and regarding inclusivity. Many of my collaborators from Singapore (such as the fabulous Steph, below) were emerging performers, appearing in this first ever all Deaf and disabled-led project in Singapore, directed by Phillip Zarrilli and produced by Access Path Productions. For the quality of the work to be recognised so quickly and so publicly, is a real triumph, regardless of the actual final ‘results’. Those of us who are ‘veterans’ of the UK’s disability art scene (including Sara Beer – also performing in the ensemble) have been hammering on the doors to be given access and opportunity for DECADES. Things are changing in the UK, as across the world, but it is gratifying that this international collaboration – the first of its kind in Singapore – is included in the nominees for this award. The salty old crip’ cynic in me would say award nominees are usually non-disabled actors ‘cripping up’ to play a disabled character. It’s satisfying that for once Deaf and disabled actors are being nominated for playing a variety of ensemble characters (and not a Tiny Tim in sight).

Stephanie Fam performing in Kaite O’Reilly’s international Unlimited commission ‘And Suddenly I Disappear… the Singapore ‘d’ Monologues. Sophie Stone in background.

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The week proceeded with a terrific review of my forthcoming publication –  Persians – with Fair Acre Press. National Theatre Wales originally commissioned this new version of Aeschylus’s masterpiece – the oldest extant verse drama in the Western theatrical canon – for Mike Pearson’s site-specific performance on MOD land. The verse drama will be released later in the Summer, and I can’t wait to reveal the glorious cover, featuring several of the performers from the original production, in a special blog later this month. Meanwhile for the curious, a thumbnail of the cover is included in Liz Jones’s New Welsh Review critique of the text, reworked as poetry for publication, here.

Most of the week was spent in Cork, in an r&d with Gaitkrash. I’m not allowed to say too much at present, and apologies for being enigmatic…

I returned back to Wales in the early hours of this morning, reading further positive comments about Taking Flight Theatre Company’s production of my play peeling, which is currently touring. It’s in Manchester tonight, and other dates in Wales and Oxford over the next few weeks, finishing this leg of the tour on May 4th in Cardiff. Both The Stage and The Guardian gave the production (directed by Elise Davison) sparkling four stars reviews. Details of the tour can be found here.

The cast of Taking Flight Theatre Company’s production of Kaite O’Reilly’s ‘peeling’. Photo: Janire Najera/Raquel Garcia

Finally, this morning I woke to a review of my collected monologues The ‘d’ Monologues in Wales Arts Review. Reviewer Tomos Morris and I met last month  over a cup of green tea for an interview for The Cardiff Review, out later this month. I’m delighted Tom’s extensive research has been put to good use in his critique, which you can read here.

Meanwhile, the fire is burning, the bottle of wine uncorked and a few hours of relaxation beckons….

 

peeling reviews and unpeeling process

Taking Flight production of Kaite O’Reilly’s ‘peeling’. Photo: Janire Najera

It’s been a week of peeling and unpeeling…. My play peeling headed off on tour in Taking Flight Theatre Company’s commended production, while performer and maker Gemma Prangle and I started unpeeling the creative process as part of her professional development from Arts Council England.

It was a few days of experiment for Gemma as I set her various writing tasks, working across a wide spectrum of styles including stimulating text to generate movement and physical scores. Phillip Zarrilli gave some vocal exercises and directorial advice as we workshopped Gemma’s starting points. I love this kind of work, where I’m part-dramaturg, part-tutor and part-mentor, and especially when, as in this case, the fruits of the explorations are exciting and filled with promise. I sent Gemma off with a series of further exercises to continue developing her considerable writing skills. I can’t wait to see what she’s going to create next.

During the excitement of exploration in the studio this week, there was also the excited gratification of positive critical responses to Elise Davison’s new production of peeling.

One of the greatest pleasures of being a playwright is the privilege of seeing other imaginations at work on your creative impulses. For Taking Flight’s new manifestation, I updated my script, not the first time I have revised the text. The play was originally written in 2002 for Jenny Sealey and Graeae, remounted in 2003 for Edinburgh and a European tour. I adapted it for BBC Radio 3 in the same year, co-directed by David Hunter and Jenny Sealey. A further production (Kirstie Davis for Forest Forge Theatre company) toured nationally in 2011, and there has been countless rehearsed readings in the US. Although I feel immensely privileged in having such a positive response to what in effect is an old play, I am also saddened that the issues of conflict, women’s autonomy over their own bodies and the problematic representation of difference in our theatres are as relevant as ever. When I set out on writing this play at the start of the new century and millennium, I never thought it would take so long for equality and diversity to reach our stages, if not our societies. The continued and increased interest in this play, particularly for its use of creative access, and the way I embedded audio description and sections of bilingualism (spoken/visual/projected language) into the fabric of the script, is therefore bitter-sweet. However, I congratulate Elise Davison and Beth House of Taking Flight and all the brilliant women whose talent, imagination and determination have brought this “fierce and funny” production to new audiences now.

The Guardian and The Stage reviews follow:

Ruth Curtis in Taking Flight’s production of ‘peeling’ by Kaite O’Reilly. Photo: Janire Najera

Fierce and funny trio storm the stage in vulva gowns – 4 stars. The Guardian review.

Alfa, Beaty and Coral are three deaf and disabled performers taking part in the chorus of a grandly titled four-hour postmodern epic, The Trojan Women: Then and Now. We watch while they sit and wait for their cues, talking, gossiping and exchanging confidences. Paused in the shadows while the “real actors continue with the real play”, they are defined and limited by the actions and designs of men, who are always offstage, elsewhere.

Elise Davison’s revival of Kaite O’Reilly’s play, originally staged in 2002, is fiercely clever and uncompromising. It packs in far more rhetorical audacity, theatrical richness and complexity of ideas than its 90-minute length would suggest. Often scathingly funny, Peeling is an accessible production that provocatively questions what is being made accessible, for whom and how. Who benefits from including a deaf and disabled ensemble, if the dressing rooms are inaccessible?

Initially appearing in vulva-embroidered ball gowns, designed by Becky Davies and made by Angharad Gamble, the actors Bea Webster, Ruth Curtis and Steph Lacey remain onstage throughout. They are shadowed by Erin Hutching as the stage manager who translates the trio’s spoken dialogue into British Sign Language. The dresses in turn are removed, but the peeling of the title also alludes to other forms of disrobing: of character, theatrical conventions, of the personal and societal expectations of disabled women. Towards its conclusion, one senses that history itself is also unravelling. We are brought to our current historical moment, laden with horrors. The grandiose “then and now” appears to be depressingly apt.

Produced by Taking Flight Theatre, who have been staging accessible productions in Wales for 10 years, Peeling is a show that insists it be viewed on its own terms. The peeling is not for your titillation. It sticks a middle finger up at paternalistic and woolly tick-box exercises in representation and inclusivity. Accessible theatre? Do it properly, it demands. Do it like this.

Bea Webster, Erin Hutching and Stephie Lacey in Taking Flight’s production of Kaite O’Reilly’s ‘peeling’. Photo: Janire Najera

‘Thought provoking and entertaining’ – 4 stars. The stage review

After 10 years of creating outdoor plays involving D/deaf and physically disabled actors (performing in spaces as unlikely as woodland and castles), Taking Flight Theatre finally goes indoors with this new version of Kaite O’Reilly’s Peeling, embarking on a national theatre tour.

First performed in 2002 by Graeae, it’s a play within a play. Alfa (Bea Webster), Beaty (Ruth Curtis) and Coral (Steph Lacey) are three actors hovering backstage during a postmodern version of The Trojan Women: Then and Now. Cajoled by an irritable stage manager (Erin Hutching, also BSL-signing), the world-weary trio is convinced they’ve only been employed to tick the ‘disability box’ and to add weight to the equal opportunities monitoring form. They yearn to be an Andromache or Hecuba, each able to recite those character’s soliloquies – all while waiting to deliver their own minimal lines.

O’Reilly is an extraordinarily poetic playwright who specialises in contemporising Greek theatre, so the Trojan Women backdrop here allows her to explore epic themes of war from a feminist standpoint. Yet it’s her more earthy, acerbic wit that hits the notes best in Elise Davison’s confident production. Subjects as trivial as celebrity gossip vie with deeply poignant questions about choice for disabled women, around their own bodies and children.

It’s challenging, but also entertaining. The action is BSL-signed and audio-described throughout, all as a natural part of the onstage action, and there’s plenty of opportunity for the strong cast to send up theatre’s right-on but sometimes cursory attitude towards D/deaf and disabled talent.

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I’m going on tour with the company on two dates this month, with a post-show discussion at Theatr Clwyd on 19th March and Aberystwyth Arts Centre on 26th March, where I believe David Rabey will be chairing the Q&A. The production will continue to tour Wales, Manchester and Oxford this Spring, with a tour of England planned for the autumn. Further details from Taking Flight.

peeling opens International Women’s Day 2019 – first reviews and photos

The cast of Taking Flight Theatre Company’s production of Kaite O’Reilly’s ‘peeling’. Photo: Janire Najera/Raquel Garcia

It’s always an incredible privilege and buzz to open a production on 8th March, International Women’s Day. This has now become something of a tradition for me, with ‘richard iii redux’ opening IWD2018 and ‘Cosy’ on IWD2016… I am therefore delighted to make this a hat-trick with Elise Davison’s new production of  my play ‘peeling’ for Taking Flight Theatre Company, which opened at Riverfront in Newport as the culmination of a day of events and celebrations. The extraordinary cupcakes for opening night gives a flavour of what a delicious day it was…

Such naughtiness aside, it’s gratifying to see such fantastic initial critical responses to the production just as the company are setting off to tour Wales, Oxford and Manchester in the coming months (there will also be a tour of England in the autumn).

When I wrote the play originally to a commission from Jenny Sealey of Graeae Theatre Company, I sought to embed audio description into the actual fabric of the text. This is something that we hadn’t seen done before  2002 (when the first production premiered), and has only been done minimally since by playwrights such as the brilliant Mike Kenny. The full text was projected onto the back wall as part of Sealey’s design, and this notion of creative captioning has continued since.

The cast of Taking Flight Theatre Company’s production of Kaite O’Reilly’s ‘peeling’. Photo: Janire Najera/Raquel Garcia

I’ve loved that the notion of creative access is at the heart of Taking Flight Theatre’s process and that director Elise Davison and designer Becky Davies (with their many collaborators) have been so imaginatively engaged with the aesthetics of access. I shan’t reveal too much for those who hopefully will catch the production on its Welsh/Oxford/Manchester tour this Spring, and wider English tour in the autumn, but I will say Becky’s access table – initially for visually impaired audience members to get a sensorial taste of the set and costume – is terrific and well worth experiencing…

I’ll be joining the company on tour for a Q&A after the performance on 19th March at Theatr Clwyd and 26th March at Aberystwyth Arts Centre for a post-show chat chaired by David Rabey. Further dates of the tour are available on Taking Flight’s website. I was asked on opening night if the script was available to read – you can get it alongside further texts about difference and disability in my collected Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors, published by Oberon.

Meanwhile, here are the first reviews of Elise’s production. I hope you can catch the show when it tours throughout the year – I think it is well worth an outing!

Initial Reviews:

“Taking Flight with Kaite O’Reilly… The show was hailed as a game-changer in feminist and accessible theatre when it was first performed… A strikingly brilliant cast of D/deaf and disabled women are unapologetic in their views and provocations… peeling will challenge audiences to experience theatre afresh..” Full review from Theatre-Wales here.

“…fiery performances… an epic feel magically presented…Heart-warming, funny, emotional and educational, peeling is a beautiful and timely production…A perfect presentation for an imperfect world, peeling deserves to be seen by as wide an audience as possible as it takes flight…”  Full review from South Wales Entertainment here.

O’Reilly’s text is dense and richly allusive…. There is plentiful bawdy humour alongside the anger in what remains a powerful play… …the most powerful sequence is Alfa’s lengthy, signed poetic monologue, initially untranslated, which is positively balletic in its depiction of past trauma…a lively, witty production..” Full review from The British Theatre Guide here.

Events celebrating International Women’s Day 2019 – Newport, Wales.

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Taking Flight Theatre Company’s new production of my award winning meta-theatrical play, peeling, opens on 8th March, International Women’s Day 2019, at Riverfront, Newport. As part of the celebrations, there are two days of events, discussions, taster sessions and pop-up performances on March 8th and 9th. I’m delighted to be involved in several events, from a panel discussion to an open mic reading of material generated in a creative writing I led in Maindee Library for emerging writers last week.

Half of the full company during r&d week. Taking Flight’s production of ‘peeling’ by Kaite O’Reilly

There are many events happening – details here-   but what follows, below, are events I’m involved with on Friday 8th March:

3pm Discussion: Whose Birthright Is It Anyway? To reproduce or not to reproduce, that is the question.

Join Taking Flight Theatre in an open panel  discussion about how and why decisions about becoming a parent are formed. What are contributing factors of whether people choose to reproduce or not and how these factors, whether they be society or medical, influence D/deaf and disabled people in their decisions.

Chair: Dr Tamse Preece

Panel: Rosaleen Moriarty Simmonds, Bethan Morgan, Dr Tracy Evans, Samatha “Doula” Gadsen and Kaite O’Reilly

4-6pm Taking Flight Theatre Company will be running a whole host of  pop up activities and performances:

– Poetry prefromance from Alice Denny

 – Comedy prefromance by Tafsila Khan a emerging Cardiff based comedian

– Open mic readings of new and in progress work generated in a writing workshop at 6pm.

7.45pm – Opening night of Taking Flight Theatre’s production of ‘peeling’ by Kaite O’Reilly

A play exploring the relationship between women, their bodies and children against a backdrop of man- made conflict. With interwoven BSL, live audio description and English captions. There will be a question and answer session after the show with the writer and company.

Entertainment South Wales preview the production here: Game-Changing Play, peeling To Tour Following International Women’s Day Premiere.

The trailer is here Audio-trailer here

Also, rather excitingly, I gather the opening performance are close to being sold out, but details of the tour can be found here

It’s Delightful… It’s Delectable…. It’s Disability…

Posters, slogans and imagery from the Disability Arts Movement, launch of NADACA

What a few days it’s been! As one of the patrons of DaDaFest, I was honoured to attend part of the 2018 DaDaFest International Festival in Liverpool this December 3rd – the international day of disabled people. Flying in from Norway, where I’d been part of The Elders Gathering at Norwegian Theatre Academy in Fredrikstadt, I landed immediately into a discussion about the past, future and present of disability arts. Editors Colin Hambrook and Trish Wheaton of the very excellent Disability Arts Online led a provocation which was live and live-streamed, asking Are we in an era post-disability arts? I personally feel we are not (I almost wish we were, but equality and inclusivity have much further to go before I’m giving up on this provocative, innovative cultural expression) and some lively discussion was had by all. Trish and Colin’s original provocation is available here and I would highly recommend it…

Introducing the discussion was the ever powerful Allan Sutherland and his radical poetry transcription work – ‘Transcription poetry as a vehicle for documenting the lives of disabled people’. Allan performed ‘Thalidomide Acts’, a cycle of transcription poems based on a series of interviews with the performer Mat Fraser.

Mat Fraser in action… Photo courtesy of D4D. http://d4d.org.uk/thalidomide-acts-mat-fraser-electric-bodies/

‘Thalidomide Acts’ is the first outcome of the ‘Electric Bodies’ strand of the D4D project: Disability and Community: Dis/engagement, Dis/enfranchisement, Dis/parity and Dissent. This is an AHRC-funded research project which investigates the evolving ways in which we as disabled and non-disabled people express, perform, experience and practice ‘community’. Allan’s fantastic presentation was ‘responded to’ by his colleague on the project, the great Colin Hambrook.

The afternoon progressed with two more titans of our movement, Tony Heaton and David Hevey (Chief Executive of Shape Arts), launching the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive (NDACA) – some wonderful provocative art archived, remembered, and celebrated. Tony selects his top five pieces of disability art here 

Again, I would hugely recommend a visit to the archive at www.the-ndaca.org: Telling the Heritage story of the Disability Arts Movement.

My extraordinary December 3rd continued with the UK launch of my latest collection of fictional monologues written specifically – and solely – for D/deaf and disabled performers, inspired by lived experience.

 

I was thrilled to introduce and launch ‘The ‘d’ Monologues’ at Unity Theatre, Liverpool, with a sterling cast of unexpected readers – and by that I mean few of them were ‘officially’ performers – but highly experienced public speakers, provocateurs, educators and activists…. major figures from the disability movement and disability and D/deaf cultures. I was honoured to have my words in the mouths and hands of the artistic director of DaDaFest, the brilliant and talented Ruth Gould; sculptor, visionary and disability arts activist Tony Heaton, senior Unlimited producer and diversity guru Jo Verrent and the magnificent director, writer, performer, firebrand and general all round mayhem-maker Julie McNamara appeared via video. Further input on film came from excerpts from my recent Unlimited International commission ‘And Suddenly I Disappear’ with the sublime Sophie Stone (featured on the cover of my book, above) and emerging artist, beatboxer, rapper Danial Bawtham, contributing from Singapore.

The collection was well and truly launched, and with such magnificence from all my contributing readers… Thank you, I am so grateful (and not nearly as hung-over as I anticipated…).

A 30% discount on the full price of The ‘d’ Monologues may still be available via the website, with code DMONO30 at https://www.oberonbooks.com/the-d-monologues.html

Returning to Wales, I was delighted to receive the poster for a student exploration of my post-dramatic text about the brilliant Frida Kahlo the 9 fridas.

Poster of the 9 fridas by Kaite O’Reilly – an exploration by students from University of South Wales

In the programme notes written to accompany the experimentation, I wrote:

I’ve been obsessed with Frida Kahlo for most of my life. I first came across her startling, uncompromising self portraits in my teens and quickly joined the ranks claiming her as inspiration and a disability icon. We were the community of freaks, crips and ‘difficult wo/men’ (and i reclaim these terms and use them admiringly) who were frustrated by traditional representation which invariably reduced Kahlo’s fierce and multilayered life to one of tragedy. Disability has long been used in the western theatrical canon dramaturgically – what David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder describe as “narrative prosthesis” – and as a metaphor to explore nondisabled values and fears. This astonishing and powerful woman has numerously been presented as a little broken betrayed wife, reduced to an ableist heterosexual cliche. ‘the 9 fridas’ is a response to these narrow depictions.
From my close study of her paintings, biography, personal letters and journals, I began to understand quite how remarkable her life and art were, and remain. I began to note her multiple identities and their inherent paradoxes: a communist who embraced consumerism and appeared on the cover of Vogue; an artist claimed by the Surrealists who insisted that what she painted was her own reality; a promiscuous bisexual monogamist who longed for a traditional family; a ‘fem’ who cross-dressed and darkened the hairs of her monobrow and top lip…She identified her cultural heritage as pre-Colombian indigenous on her maternal side and European Jewish on her paternal line and herself as a citizen of Mexico and the world. A life-long radical, she refused to allow her childhood polio and the devastating road accident aged 18 to limit her activities and ambition. The invalid in a full-body plaster cast hidden away in the back room of her childhood home had a mirror hung above her bed and picked up a brush and changed art… Her story is defiant, she is the protagonist of her own life (‘I give birth to myself’) who constantly broke out of the restrictions of her gender, disability and age.
In response to the reductionist depictions of her life, I decided to write ‘the 9 fridas’ with a mosaic dramaturgy – multiples of figures who both are and are not Frida Kahlo – each figure with distinctive detail and perspective, but which, when combined, would give the ‘full’ and whole picture of her many-faceted self.
I’m delighted that the students presenting this exploration are claiming both the text and Kahlo as their own…. and can’t wait to experience THEIR 9 fridas….
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Hours after writing these words (on a train travelling from Norway to Liverpool), I opened up negotiations for a possible production of the performance text in Spanish in Costa Rica next year. Despite the text having been translated into several languages, the only other professional production to date is the world premiere, directed by Phillip Zarrilli for Möbius Strip and Hong Kong Repertory Theatre at the 2014 Taipei International Festival, later transferring in 2016 to Hong Kong. It is a huge delight that the text is being picked up and proving of relevance to our current and future generations of theatre makers.
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The final course in this extraordinary banquet of disability arts and culture came this morning, with the audio trailers for Taking Flight’s 2019 production of my play ‘peeling’. Both texts – ‘the 9 fridas’ and ‘peeling’ are published in my collected ‘Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors’ by Oberon.
I will be writing further about Taking Flight Theatre Company’s production – directed by Elise Davison and produced by Beth House – with news of the cast, our dates and opportunities for engagement during the tour (I will be doing some post-show discussions for some of the Welsh dates). I am also going to lead a workshop for women leading up to the opening – more details later, as they emerge.
The production opens on International Womens’ Day, 8th March 2019, at The Riverfront, Newport, then touring Wales, with an English tour in autumn 2019.
Here is the English language audio trailer:

In shadow, never centre stage, 3 performers await their brief moment in the light. But who would want to explore these bodies? Who will receive their stories? Their words have been buried in dust, through the long corridor of time. We will unearth them here. We will hear them echo in the darkness.
This city will fall.

Alfa, Beaty and Coral wait… wait while once more the action plays out elsewhere. Once more they form the chorus to someone else’s lead.
But… this city will fall.

With interwoven BSL, live audio description and English captions at every show, peeling challenges you to experience theatre afresh. Whose stories do we tell? And who will be there to bear witness?

Here is the Welsh language trailer – and we will no doubt have posters, flyers, and BSL trailers soon!
What an incredible end to a year – and a sense of such engagement and interest in disability arts and culture…..