Tag Archives: The Almond and the Seahorse

The Verb: Friday 25th November 2016, 10pm, BBC Radio 3

bbc_radio_three

Ever aware of my backlog of blogs – the tour to Taipei and Hong Kong in particular – I ask forgiveness and avert your attention instead to an event I’m immensely excited about, next week:

I’m delighted I will be appearing on BBC Radio 3’s The Verb on Friday 25th November with C Duncan and Caoillin Hughes, aided and abetted by the wordsmith Ian McMillan. I’ll be speaking about my selected plays, Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors, with the sublime Celyn Jones, a long-term collaborator, reading extracts from plays. Celyn and I last collaborated on the critically acclaimed The Almond and the Seahorse at Sherman Cymru in 2008, directed by Phillip Zarrilli. Celyn has since been remarkably busy and successful on the large screen (just a taster with Set Fire to the Stars), so it’s a great pleasure and a bit of a scoop to have him back performing live.

Further details of the programme follow – as will the blogs once I finally get home after so many weeks on the road.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0833yq1

‘Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors’ review – Disability Arts Online

atypical-plays-for-atypical-actors

Reviews are gold dust. They are even more rare when the publication under the critical lens is a collection of plays. Plays get reviewed in production; they seldom make it into print, never mind being reviewed in print. So owing to this, I am hugely appreciative of the publications who have shown interest and support of my ‘atypical’ and crip’ work by providing critical engagement for my selected plays.

First up is the ever provocative and excellent Disability Arts Online, with a review by  Sonali Shah. I reproduce much of the review here, but you can read the  full text on the website, where DAO readers can find a 30% discount voucher for the collection.

Disability Arts Online: Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors Review July 4 2016 by Sonali Shah.

‘Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors’ is a collection of five unique, but equally powerful, poetic and political pieces of drama composed by the award winning playwright, Kaite O’Reilly. Review by Dr Sonali Shah (University of Glasgow)

O’Reilly’s policy and practice as a writer is to ‘put crips in our scripts’.[…] So with this motto in mind, O’Reilly’s ‘Atypical Plays’ present opportunities for disabled artists to occupy the stage and challenge audiences’ assumptions about disability and difference. The writer works together with her actors in a non-hierarchical and innovative way, continuously and purposefully adapting to each unique movement, to create the five theatrical pieces in this collection: Peeling, The Almond and the Seahorse, In Water I’m Weightless, the 9 Fridas and Cosy.

Written in the 21st Century and from an insider lens, these five plays subvert traditional notions of normalcy and encourage the possibilities of human difference to explore the whirlwind of relationships, emotions, choices and identities that, both construct us and are constructed by us, as we all move through life and try to work out what it is to be human.

These texts portray disabled characters as sexy, active and wilful beings in empowering and provocative stories, cutting against the grain of the trope for most blockbusters of stage and screen, which revolve around medicalisation and normalisation using disabled characters as a metaphor for tragedy, loss or horror.

The first play, peeling, described by the Scotsman as ‘a feminist masterpiece’, is a fine example of meta-theatre that explores themes of war, eugenics, and fertility. Written specifically for a Deaf woman and two disabled women (each strong, witty actors and feisty activists), peeling is a postmodern take on the epic Trojan Women.

Although the three characters – Alfa, Beaty and Coral – are consigned to the chorus, O’Reilly makes them central to this play, revealing their real personalities and hidden truths through vocal cat-fights and heckling matches (interpreted via BSL and audio description) while they wait to play the two minute part they have been awarded in the name of ‘inclusion’.

The Almond and the Seahorse is the second script, and the most structured of them all. Written for a cast of five, it examines the impact of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) for the individual and their slowly fading loved ones. Focusing on two couples (where one partner in each has a diminishing memory) it demonstrates the slow debilitating power of memory loss on present relationships and dreams for the future.

Reading this script evokes a sense of how critical and delicate the human memory is. This is reflected in the words of Dr Falmer (the ambitious neuropsychologist character whose beloved father had TBI) – ‘we should not invest so in such perishable goods’ (p.127). The vibrant clarity of monologue, dialogue and stage directions on the page makes it easy to visualise this play on the stage. Highly affecting, the performed text will undoubtedly give much food for thought for the audiences.

The third play in this collection In Water I am Weightless – is an apt title for exploring the heavy burden disability seems to provoke in society as in water it remains hidden. Written for a cast of six Deaf and disabled actors, and entrenched in crip humour and energy of the Disability Movement, the performance script adopts a monologue and dialogue style to create a mosaic of stories of the realities of living in a disabling society and being seen as ‘vulnerable’ and ‘in need’ by the non-disabled.[…] Performed at Unlimited in London 2012, and inspired by a range of informal conversations with disabled and Deaf citizens, this work is really does put “us” in the slogan “Nothing About Us Without Us”.

The 9 Fridas use the artwork of the disabled Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, as a lens to deconstruct her biography including her changing social positioning in terms of her disabled and feminist identities. The last play, Cosy, is a dark comedy exploring inevitable ageing and death.

Together the five plays make essential reading, both for educational purposes and pleasure. Informed by the Social Model of Disability, they have the potential to enact a kind of activism and a change in public perceptions towards disabled people, previously shaped by negative representations in popular culture. Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors offers an entertaining and poetical insight into what is means to be human.

 

With thanks to Disability Arts Online. Please check out this essential website – http://disabilityarts.online – an important hub for discussion, reflection and engagement with disability arts and culture.

Atypical Plays Discount code from Oberon books available to DAO readers here

Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors: Selected Plays by Kaite O’Reilly

I’m delighted to make this pre-publication announcement: Oberon books will publish five of my plays and performance texts to coincide with the World premiere of Cosy at the Wales Millennium Centre in March 2016.

The news is so fresh, we haven’t yet settled on the image for the cover. I’ve been liaising with my agents and editor at Oberon about what production photographs to use after drawing up a shortlist by the fantastically talented Toby Farrow and Patrick Baldwin, who documented In Water I’m Weightless (National Theatre Wales) and peeling (Graeae Theatre Company) respectively. Mock-ups of the front and back covers will be made early in the New Year, with publicity bling thanks to Lyn Gardner, theatre critic for The Guardian. My long-term collaborator John McGrath, out-going artistic director of National Theatre Wales and in-coming director of the Manchester International Festival, will write the preface.

What follows is from Oberon books website

9781783193172
Atypical Plays For Atypical Actors is the first of its kind: a collection of dramas which redefines the notion of normalcy and extends the range of what it is to be human. From monologues, to performance texts, to realist plays, these involving and subversive pieces explore disability as a portal to new experience.

Includes the plays: peeling, The Almond and the Seahorse, In Water I’m Weightless, the 9 Fridas and Cosy.

Although disabled characters appear often in plays within the Western theatrical tradition, seldom have the writers been disabled or Deaf themselves, or written from those atypical embodied experiences. This is what contributes to making Kaite O’Reilly’s Selected Plays essential reading – critically acclaimed plays and performance texts written in a range of styles over twelve years, but all informed by a political and cultural disability perspective. They ‘answer back’ to the moral and medical models of disability and attempt to subvert or critique assumptions and negative representations of disabled people.

The selected plays and performance texts exhibit a broad approach to issues around disability. Some, like In Water I’m Weightless/The ‘d’ Monologues (part of the Cultural Olympiad and official festival celebrating the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics) are embedded in disability politics, aesthetics, and ‘crip’ humour. A montage of monologues that can be performed solo or as a chorus, they challenge the normative gaze and celebrate all the possibilities of human variety. The Almond and the Seahorse is different, a ‘mainstream’ character-led realist drama about survivors of Traumatic Brain Injury, with subversive politics in its belly. A response to ‘tragic but brave’ depictions of head injury and memory loss, and informed by personal experience, the play interrogates the reality of living with TBI, questioning who the ‘victims’ are.

peeling, a landmark play written for one Deaf and two disabled female actors, was originally produced by Graeae Theatre Company in 2002, 2003, and for BBC Radio 3. A ‘feminist masterpiece…quietly ground breaking’ (Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman), it has become a set text for Theatre and Drama and Disability Studies university degree courses in the UK and US. Frequently remounted, its lively meta-theatrical form supports its central themes of war, eugenics, and a woman’s control over her fertility, which are as relevant today as ever.

The performance text the 9 Fridas is a complex mosaic offering multiple representations of arguably the world’s most famous female artist, Frida Kahlo, reclaiming her as a disability icon. Performed in Mandarin translation, it was the closing production of the 2014 Taipei Art Festival and will transfer to Hong Kong in October 2016. It is currently being translated into German, Hindi, and Spanish.

Cosy is a darkly comedic look at the joys and humiliations of getting older and how we shuffle off this mortal coil. Three generations of a dysfunctional family explore their choices in a world obsessed with eternal youth, and asks whose life (or death) is it, anyway? An Unlimited Commission, Cosy will premiere and tour nationally in 2016, appearing at the Unlimited Festivals at Southbank Centre and Tramway.

The book will be published 1 March 2016 and is available for pre-orders at Oberon and Amazon

 

 

 

A hat trick in 2016… UK, Germany, Hong Kong….

And here’s something I hope I don’t often do – puff out my chest and blog (brag?) about me me me…

I started this blog to write about process and creativity, to document various routes through writing and collaboration in live performance. This is terrific when you’re in the rehearsal room and have wonderful fellow artists to bounce off (and photograph), but it’s perhaps not so riveting (or possible) when in the slow dark hours of solitary revision, or research. This is why I’ve been focusing more on other writers, workshops, and small publishers of late whilst I’ve been cautiously working my way through the tentative revisions of a play and a novel.

But in the midst of what feels creatively like a deep winter, growth stirs underfoot and although it is only November, I already have confirmation of shoots appearing, particularly for March 2016. This is what I wish to share with you today, these emerging green tips…

February 2016 will start with rehearsals in Cardiff on the play I am currently writing. Cosy is an Unlimited commission, which you can read about on my sister blog here.  It will premiere in Wales in March 2016, directed by Phillip Zarrilli  with a cast of six fabulous female performers, and I’ll be posting more about the dates and details of this when the season launches shortly.

March will also bring the German language premiere of my play about the survivors of Traumatic Brain Injury – The Almond and the Seahorse – translated by Frank Heibert as Mandel & Seepferdchen. The premiere will be 24th March 2016 at Mainfranken Theater Wurzburg, Germany. Details in German here. I’m fortunate to have worked before with Frank – he translated my debut YARD  (The Bush Theatre 1998, winner of the Peggy Ramsay Award) for the Maxim Gorki Theatre in Berlin, where it ran for two years as Schlachthaus.

Schlachthaus by Kaite O'Reilly, Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin. http://www.kaiteoreilly.com/plays/schlachthaus/index.htm

Schlachthaus by Kaite O’Reilly, Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin. http://www.kaiteoreilly.com/plays/schlachthaus/index.htm

You can see some striking images from that acclaimed production, directed by Martin Kloepfer here. Frank and I have collaborated on other texts, and I feel so privileged to continue evolving this relationship across language and representation with such an admired and skilful translator.

Translation also features in my hat trick of the year, the remounting of my performance text about Frida Kahlo, the 9 Fridas. The closing production of The 2014 Taipei Arts Festival, directed in the Mandarin by Phillip Zarrilli, this Mobius Strip production will transfer to Hong Kong in October 2016, in association with Hong Kong Repertory Theatre. I hope to be back in Taipei for rehearsals and also at the premiere in Hong Kong in the Autumn. The autumn is a fascinating time to be in Taiwan, and my rehearsal/travel diary from the six weeks I spent in Taipei in 2014 was published by Wales Arts Review here.

There are also other projects afoot, publications and writing courses I will be revealing shortly (watch this space!) – but I hope that your own creativity is progressing slowly but surely. It may be winter, but there is still richness and fecundity in these apparent dreary November days.

Letting go…

Mandel ja merihobu_kodukassuur

It’s strange when your work goes out into the world and starts finding an existence of its own. I always expected to have a close relationship with productions of my plays were I fortunate enough to have additional productions after the premiere. I anticipated being as involved as I am with the first production – speaking at length with the directors and cast, sitting in on rehearsals, or working closely with the translators if the productions were using languages other than my native English.

At first I thought I’d be deranged and dangerous – ‘The Controlling Author’ – sort of late career Bette Davis, fag in mouth, martini in hand, screeching out from the darkened auditorium during rehearsals: ‘ It’s not said like that! Didn’t you see it was a four dot pause, not three?’ as actors and directors wept copiously and swallowed handfuls of diazes…

Thankfully it didn’t work out like that. I found it more instructive, creative and beneficial for all to have a loose hold on the script and see what the skills, experiences and imaginations of the director, cast and company brought to the material. If there were certain points where I felt my intentions weren’t being presented, I would step in and make my case, but luckily for me, by easing off from being ‘the expert’ on my script (and the only voice), I have learned, grown, made good relationships with my collaborators and had much better productions.

So far so good…. But things are different again when the productions are not in the country where you reside…

I’m currently working in Berlin, and have a show opening tonight in Estonia, and needless to say, I shan’t be at the premiere. It feels distinctly odd, this sense of something so intimately connected to me – which came from me – having its own place and existence in the world without my connection. I don’t know the cast, have no notion of how the director hopes to stage it, and didn’t liaise with the translator. In fact, I didn’t even know this production was happening until earlier this week and I suspect this then is a kind of rites of passage. There reaches a point when our work is published, or out in the world, and totally independent.

Early in the process, I control it. I write it, I decide who gets to see it, who even knows it is in development. When it is completed in early draft stage, I am the conduit through which it goes, selectively, into the world. As the work gets polished and ready to be seen by a wider audience than my selected ‘first readers’, the narrow stream widens, and it is my agent who is placing the script under noses and so the tap root expands from there. What I’m experiencing today is what happens when work is published and readily available to whomever wants to read it, across the world. Gifted translators transform my words into another language and so its pathway into the world grows even more.

I’ve had productions before in other countries where I couldn’t travel and so see the work. I’ve had readings and productions in thirteen countries across the globe and I hope the productions were creative and successful and that the experience was a happy one for all involved. I hope each made the work fresh, and truly theirs – without any sense of a controlling authorial eye, or a ‘thou shalt not’ limiting imaginations.

So this evening, I’m letting go, and raising a glass to ‘The Almond and the Seahorse’ at Theater Endla in Estonia – wishing joy and broken legs, toi toi toi, and all those other superstitions. I will dream of what an Estonian Sarah, Dr Falmer, Gwennan, Tom, and Joe may be like – and hope that sometime over its long run in repertoire, I get there to see it.

Trailer at:  http://www.endla.ee

Art/Works to host Kaite O’Reilly 21-24 February 2014, Cork.

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Art|Works UCC is delighted to present playwright and dramaturg Kaite O’Reilly in a series of events including:
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Rehearsed reading of ‘Cosy’ 
Directed by Phillip Zarrilli, followed by wine reception

Saturday, February 22nd (5  7pm), Triskel Arts Centre, Cork

Cynthia Mackowick-Traun

Cynthia Mackowick-Traun

Kaite O’Reilly’s new work-in-progress play, Cosy, is a dark comedic tour-de-force written for six female performers ranging across three generations. Set in a dilapidated house, the estranged family gather —for the matriarch Rose wants to die. (Secretly) failed businesswoman Camille and her precociously intelligent teenage daughter, Isabella, arrive to find the house falling down around their ears and Ed, the elder sister/house-keeper isolated and old before her time. Then the much-traveled, many times divorced Gloria arrives, but the black sheep of the family is transformed – and who is the strange woman taking refuge in the garden shed?  The play explores family dynamics, issues of inheritance and self-ownership, and how to ‘keep the faith’ in the midst of economic chaos.

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“Do one thing every day that scares you.”  Get over the fear and start writing: A two day intensive with playwright Kaite O’Reilly.

(By application only)

Saturday, February 22nd & Sunday 23rd February

Triskel Arts Centre, Cork

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Lunchtime lecture:

 Neither Richard, nor Oedipus nor (Tiny) Tim. Dominant and Alternative Representations of Disability in Drama

Monday, February 24th (1 – 2pm), G1O Brookfield health Sciences Complex, UCC

Throughout the western dramatic tradition impairment has been a metaphor for the human condition. But what ‘truths’ have these metaphors generated and what might be alternative contemporary images and narratives?

In this lecture Kaite will briefly discuss the long cultural and linguistic practice of assigning meaning to the impaired body, and offer alternative representations, including from her own work ‘peeling’ and ‘The Almond and the Seahorse.’


 Lecture to mark Disability Awareness Week UCC

Disability Arts and Culture: “NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US”

A personal odyssey through the UK’s Disability Civil Rights Movement to ‘crip’ culture and disability arts.

 Monday, February 24th (5 – 7pm), venue TBC

 


For further information or enquiries please contact:

Dr Bernadette Cronin
Lecturer, Drama & Theatre Studies
School of Music and Theatre
College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences
University College Cork
+353 (0) 21 490 4070
b.cronin@ucc.ie

Dr Rachel MagShamhráin
Lecturer, German
O’Rahilly Building (1.41)
University College Cork
+353 (0) 21 490 2689
r.magshamhrain@ucc.ie

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Kaite O’Reilly has won various awards for her work, including the Peggy Ramsay Award for YARD (Bush Theatre, London), MEN Best Play of the year for Perfect (Contact Theatre), a finalist of the 2009 International Susan Smith Blackburn Award for The Almond and the Seahorse (Sherman Cymru) and the 2010/11 winner of The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry for her retelling of Aeschylus’sPersians (National Theatre Wales). Productions in 2012 included LeanerFasterStronger (Chol/Sheffield Theatres) part of the Cultural Olympiad and In Water I’m Weightless (National Theatre Wales), an Unlimited Commission, part of the official festival at The Southbank Centre for the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games. She works between ‘mainstream’ and disability arts and culture, and is a Fellow of Freie University’s International Research Centre, Interweaving Performance Cultures in Berlin, where she is reflecting on her work. She is currently completing her first novel, and working on a commission from Sherman Cymru, Forest Forge, and Little Brother Productions. Woman of Flowers tours nationally in 2014, and The 9 Fridas has its Mandarin premiere at Taipei’s International Theatre Festival in August 2014.

Phillip Zarrilli is internationally known as a director, actor, and actor-trainer. He is the founding Artistic Director of The Llanarth Group (2000). He directed the premiere of Kaite O’Reilly’s critically acclaimed The Almond and the Seahorse for Sherman Cymru.

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A week of balancing…

It’s been a week of balancing…. Balancing the completion of a polished draft of my first novel with a first draft commission of a performance text for Sherman Cymru Theatre. A week of seeking parity of meaning between languages, and of promoting gender parity in those working in professional theatre.

News of the novel I will keep for another time. I haven’t yet ‘come out’ as a would be novelist, and the public admission, above, of my advanced stage in the process of  writing long fiction feels quite enough, frankly, at present…. Suffice to say the ms has gone off to my relatively new literary agent and from her hands it will head out into the world…. I’m new to the process and not sure quite what to expect, but will begin covering this departure here, as and when….

Meanwhile, apart from completing drafts, I’ve been liaising with Frank Heibert in Berlin, a brilliant translator it has been my good fortune to have worked with twice before. Frank is translating my play The Almond and the Seahorse from the original English and Welsh into German, and we’re finding unexpected areas of dissonance and a disparity in cultural and everyday experience.

One of the main issues is not, as I expected, about specifically Welsh cultural traditions such as the national Eisteddfod (festival of poetry, literature, music and performance), but around the word ‘respite’.

The play focuses on survivors of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and so touches on the various systems and supports available in the UK for people to live more independently. Residential respite care is central to this – a time for those living with specific conditions and impairments and their partners or family who have been helping care for them at home to have a break, a holiday from each other – ‘respite’. Frank and I were astonished to find that there is no equivalent word in German to describe this most common of experiences in the UK. We spent hours searching the internet, and him interviewing several doctors, trying to find what would be a recognisable equivalent for a German audience. Day centres exist, but not this central concept of ‘respite’ – which is unfathomable to me and a major surprise to us both (and further cause to celebrate and protect our threatened but brilliant NHS).

Monday saw a trip to Covent Garden and Equal Writes, organised by Mandy Fenton as part of the nationwide campaign calling for UK theatre to fully engage with the need for gender parity. Equal Writes was an evening of monologues and short scenes presented at the Tristan Bates Theatre on March 11th ‘focusing on women, women’s stories and women in situations we are not presently seeing represented on UK stages.’

Mandy Colleran in rehearsals with National Theatre Wales on O'Reilly's 'In Water I'm Weightless' 2012

Mandy Colleran in rehearsals with National Theatre Wales on O’Reilly’s ‘In Water I’m Weightless’ 2012

My monologue Walkie Talkies was one of the dozen selected from over 800 submissions, and was performed by my long standing friend and collaborator, Disability Diva Mandy Colleran herself.

It was a fantastic evening – the auditorium was crammed as the event sold out. I was delighted to be part of such an important initiative and to share the stage with such a diverse and stimulating array of women characters, presented by a strong cast of female performers of all ages and cultural heritages, directed by a team of female directors and written by male and female playwrights.

For further information on the evening, go to:

http://www.equity.org.uk/news-and-events/equity-news/womens-stories-not-seen-on-stage/

I wonder whether the rest of the week will be such a balancing act…