Tag Archives: Tom Wentworth

The playwright is leaving the building…. embracing diversity and challenging normalcy

 

Sharon Morgan, Ruth Lloyd and Ri Richards in 'Cosy' rehearsals. Image: Farrows Creative

Sharon Morgan, Ruth Lloyd and Ri Richards in ‘Cosy’ rehearsals. Image: Farrows Creative

There reaches a point in every theatre production of a sole-authored script when the playwright needs to leave the room…. and now is my time to do just that….

New writing is exactly that – new – it is untried and brings with it all the excitement, risk and anticipation of doing something for the first time… I loved being in rehearsals full time for several weeks, trying out the script, making amendments, getting feedback from visiting playwrights and dramaturgs as well as the company… Now it is my turn to leave everything in the director’s capable hands and allow him and the company to make their final preparations…

We preview on Tuesday 8th March, International Women’s Day, which seems an appropriate day for a play all about women, of all ages, written by a woman playwright…. We’ve also been receiving some fantastic coverage in the press and media, which I reproduce below. Have a ‘Cosy’ read or a listen….

A podcast with Dylan Moore for the Institute of Welsh Affairs: http://www.clickonwales.org/2016/02/iwa-podcast-confronting-the-last-taboo-old-age-and-death-in-theatre/

Read about the most influential and powerful women in Welsh theatre here 

On normalcy and diversity – an interview in The Stage

Lyn Gardner’s Guardian preview of Cosy

Actor Sara Beer and me in conversation with Nicola Heywood Thomas on BBC Radio Wales Arts Show

Joe Turnbull’s interview with me on normalcy and coming from a family of rebels for Exeunt theatre magazine

A feature I wrote about writing for female protagonists for Art Scene In Wales

An interview with Welsh National Treasure Sara Beer for Western Mail and Wales Online

Richard Huw Morgan and Pitch – radio interview with Tom Wentworth, Ruth Lloyd, Llinos Daniel and me

25 exciting things to do in Wales during March WOW247

‘Kaite O’Reilly has always been a rule breaker.’ Exeunt magazine

What follows is an interview with Joe Turnbull for Exeunt magazine. You can read the original feature here

With thanks to Joe and Exeunt.

 

Kaite O’Reilly has always been a rule breaker. Her 2012 play, In Water I’m Weightless set a precedent by having an all Deaf and disabled cast. She’s pioneered creative access throughout her career, informed by her longstanding affinity with Deaf culture. Plays such as The 9 Fridas, subvert traditional theatrical form and aesthetic. And even when she deliberately sets out to make mainstream work she can’t reign in her recalcitrance. She describes the Almond and the Seahorse, her 2008 play which got a five-star review in the Guardian, as her ‘Trojan Horse’: “I created what seemed to be the most commercial theatre script I’d ever written. Only it’s got subversive politics in its belly.”

Her latest work Cosy, which is set to premiere at the Wales Millennium Centre on 8 March, very much falls into the latter category. It’s ostensibly a traditional family drama encompassing three generations of women, which tackles the thorny issue of end-of-life scenarios and ageing.

“I’m deliberately taking different perspectives of a family coming together. It’s familiar – the family all get together and all these discussions and events happen in the family home. But perhaps some of the content and arguments and perspectives being presented are not the ones we would usually hear”.

It turns out O’Reilly’s dissident sensibilities are in her blood. “My family were always rebels, they were always the dissenting voice that would shout up from the back”. As O’Reilly regales me with her backstory, I’m transported to the West Midlands in the 1970s.

O’Reilly’s father, an Irish migrant is holding court amidst a bustling farmer’s market. A proper working-class Irishman, his sales patter is a performance aimed at punters as he tries to flog his sheep. Back at the O’Reilly family home, get-togethers also provide a stage, and everyone is expected to deliver, whether it’s a poem, song or a story. This is the theatre of everyday life. It clearly had quite an impact on the young Kaite.

“The performative aspect that comes culturally from being working class Irish was huge. As I get older I understand how formative that was because it was always about entertaining, engaging, challenging, provoking.”

It isn’t something that they can teach at drama school, nor is it something you can read in a book. “I think that right from the get-go, if you’re going to be a playwright it’s got to be about the living words in the mouth. You know as soon as something sounds stagey. There’s something about engaging with language in the absolute moment that you have to be able to dazzle and create and engage with words.”

But her working-class Irish heritage isn’t the only aspect of her identity that has been seminal to O’Reilly’s work:

“Identifying politically and culturally as a disabled person was essential, because it changes you. It affects everything about how you perceive the world. I think that is huge as a playwright because we’re trying to – as that old hackneyed Shakespeare quote goes – ‘to hold as ‘twere the mirror up to nature’. Well if you are actually seeing nature and the notion of normalcy as being different from what the majority culture says, then there’s some really interesting things happening”.

O’Reilly doesn’t shirk from the label, she has always embraced it, even in her work, whether that’s using integrated casts, embedding creative access or by directly addressing disability themes. As is common for many successful disabled artists, O’Reilly finds herself at times awkwardly straddling the two worlds of mainstream and disability arts. Cosy is perhaps a sign of things to come for O’Reilly as something of a middle ground between the two. Although the play doesn’t address disability political issues directly, it was inspired by her thoughts around assisted dying which is a very important topic for the disability rights movement.

“I started to think about ageing, about end-of-life scenarios, our relationship to the medical profession and how industrialised care has become. What are the family dynamics in end-of-life scenarios? So basically, Cosy is quite a dark but sophisticated comedy looking at whether we truly own ourselves.”

O’Reilly is eager to acknowledge that her perception of language and working process as a theatre maker have been massively influenced by her work with Deaf collaborators, such as performer and director of visual language, Jean St Clair. “Seeing what language can be through the prism of Deaf culture and experience has been really important; the form, the means, the aesthetic and the possibilities were broadened as I began to learn sign language”.

“I’m notorious for my bad signing,” she tells me, wryly. “Jean teases me all the time about it. Whenever I threaten to go and learn BSL she says ‘no don’t because I actually like what you’re doing, because it makes me think differently’”.

Due to budgetary restrictions, not to mention the changes in Access to Work benefits, O’Reilly regrets that Cosy won’t be the “all-singing, all dancing, all-signing access-fest” as previous works such as In Water I’m Weightless. The play will be captioned, and they are also trialling an app which encompasses different languages and possibly audio description. In spite of the restraints and her past successes, O’Reilly is still not taking anything for granted, displaying the enthusiasm and passion of a young upstart. “Every day I wake up smiling and thankful that we’ve got this opportunity from Unlimited, it’s an incredible gift”.

Perhaps it’s fitting for these austere times that Cosy sees O’Reilly going back to basics in more ways than one. “Cosy isn’t breaking new ground in terms of form or aesthetic but I think it’s interesting that we have reached the point of maturity, where we can have a big growling play with these different perspectives all mashed up and arguing together.”

But it just wouldn’t be an O’Reilly play if it wasn’t pushing the boundaries in some way. Cosy has an integrated all-female cast of disabled and non-disabled actors with ages ranging from 16 to 76, “how gorgeous and delicious is that?” she enthuses. Even more significantly, the roles with the most power in Cosy are predominantly staffed by people who identify culturally and politically as disabled, including the director (Phillip Zarrilli) and assistant producer (Tom Wentworth) in addition to O’Reilly herself as the writer.

“I think it’s interesting that the powerbase is coming from a very open identification as disabled. Often they’re the ones who are non-disabled and the people that are being cast are disabled. I wonder if that’s a shift that has come from Unlimited and their legacy, that we’re now becoming more and more in the position of the powerbase.”

In concert with the launch of Cosy, O’Reilly also has a book entitled Atypical Plays for Atypical actors being published by Oberon Books. It will feature a selection of five plays and performance texts spanning nearly 15 years of work, each of which is informed by disability politics. Clearly, there’s no chance of this rebel being assimilated by her mainstream success.

And like all true revolutionaries, O’Reilly isn’t content being the sole dissenting voice in what can at times be a very homogenised profession. Instead she’s looking to use her profile as a vanguard for others. “There are things that I’m trying to do through my practice and engagement that I hope is going to help shift things and provide opportunities for other people as well. For me it’s very important that we have people in leadership and positions of power who are not only disabled and Deaf, but who identify culturally and politically as so.”

Cosy is on at Cardiff Millennium Centre from 8-12th March. Tickets and info here

 

“Rewriting isn’t just about dialogue” Cosy developments

Rewriting isn’t just about dialogue; it’s the order of the scenes, how you finish a scene, how you get into a scene.

Tom Stoppard

Writing is all about rewriting, and revising a script prior to it going into production is probably my favourite part of the solo process (writing is solitary; rehearsals are communal and social and collaborative).

‘Cosy’ has had a long gestation period – the initial ideas and research into end of life scenarios and exit strategies began when I was on attachment to the National Theatre Studio in London in 2010. I had completed the first draft when I applied to Unlimited for a commission and production grant.  I was ecstatic when I was successful in the bid, and immediately embarked on the r&d, with an initial reading of the revised script with our cast in June 2015. Informed by that experience, I began revisions on the script and the second part of the research and development process occurred in Cardiff in November, at Wales Millennium Centre, where the production will preview on 8th March 2016.

Sharon Morgan in 'Cosy'. Photograph by Toby Farrow

Sharon Morgan in ‘Cosy’. Photograph by Toby Farrow

It’s wonderful revising a script when you know who the actors will be. Throughout the rewriting process, I’ve been hearing the voice of Ri Richards, or Sara Beer, and the other four fabulous performers as I tackle revisions. It’s a delicate process; I’m not changing the dialogue to fit the actors, rather, my knowledge of the skills of Bethan Rose Young, Llinos Daniel, Sharon Morgan and Ruth lloyd are urging me on, inspiring me to write a more complex symphony as I can ‘hear’ the individual ‘instruments’ in my head.

I have been tracing through individual strands or plot points, ensuring the characters are consistent, balancing the beats, editing the unnecessary, checking the speed and pace (they’re not the same thing) throughout the text. I feel like a composer setting ideas off into motion. I re-read the work in progress continuously, checking the flow, the change in rhythm, the moments of pause and activity, taking the emotional and dramatic temperature of the piece throughout.

Back in the Summer, I invited partners, allies, directors, dramaturgs, and the interested to a reading of the second draft of the play, collating feedback and responses. These comments informed my revisions but didn’t dictate them…. the amount of contradictory feedback I received was quite wonderful and would have been perplexing, were I not a mature playwright, with a strong sense of the piece I am making!

When working in a room with the actors, our process has not been one of devising, but strengthening the existing script.

The r&d in November was small and private, involving the full cast, director Phillip Zarrilli and  Unlimited Impact trainee producer/playwright Tom Wentworth.The company sat around a table with me, working through the script line by line. We identified areas that needed clarifying, or extending, and had open discussions about the themes of ageing and end of life scenerios. I am now finalising what will be the rehearsal draft, the version which will be published in my forthcoming Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors with Oberon.

This gathering also gave Phillip and Llinos a chance to share with us some of the early explorations they’re making for what might be the ‘soundtrack’ of the production. Llinos is a talented singer and musician, known in Wales for playing the harp, but for ‘Cosy’ she and Phillip have been exploring the use of medieval instruments – the crwth and bowed psaltery.

Llinos Daniel with crwth and hammer psaltery. Cosy r&d day

Llinos Daniel with crwth and bowed psaltery. Cosy r&d day

Rehearsals begin in early February, which is putting wind in my rewriting sails. As I write, I’m just finishing off the last details – where god and the devil are reputed to be – knowing the text will change again once we are in the rehearsal room, trying it out on the floor. I can’t wait.

Fair Acre Press – Maligned Species: ecologists and poets

It’s been a morning of listening rather than reading or writing, thanks to Nadia Kingsley and Fair Acre Press’s new podcast: Maligned Species. I’ve been engrossed, drawn in despite myself to the fascinating and entertaining podcast on spiders by ecologist and broadcaster Brett Westwood. His lively and charismatic talk has taught me more in thirty minutes about this maligned species than I previously knew in my lifetime (an ancient order: spiders have been around for about 400 million years!). Brett offers startling and quirky details which could be wonderful starting points for creativity (the male spider bringing silk-wrapped presents to distract the female whilst he mates with her; bondage and spiders, anyone?) and I can well imagine many reaching for a pen after experiencing these absorbing podcasts.

Which is the point.

Nadia established the Maligned Species project as a free online resource involving both ecologists and poets. The aim is to encourage poetry-writing on the subject of spiders, frogs, stinging nettles, and grey squirrels – culminating in four poetry ebooks – one on each subject.

On the website Nadia describes the project thus:

M A L I G N E D S P E C I E S : P O E T R Y. S C I E N C E. Y O U.

Take a spider, a frog, the nettle and grey squirrel.

Ask an ecologist, expert in their field, all about it.

Invite a poet to creatively respond to this through poetry.

Now, it’s over to you.

Whether you’re a lover of nature, a burgeoning or established poet, or fascinated by what makes these species tick, Fair Acre Press hopes that you will feel inspired by the scientists and poets in our team to write poetry with a more scientific slant…

You can download podcasts and read prompts at www.fairacrepress.co.uk: hear Nigel Brown give us his scientific slant on the humble frog, and what John Handley has to say about the grey squirrel: listen to Brett Westwood tell us why spiders are always in the bath, and find out from Matthew Oates just how a nettle stings. Then listen to nine poets discuss and read from their own poetry to inspire you to write with a more scientific slant.

Submissions are open in January 2016; with E-Books on sale from February. To enter is free, and monies from E-Book sales will be donated to the ecological organisations – Buglife, Froglife, Plantlife, and the Shropshire Wildlife Trust to help with their vital ongoing work.

So, if you believe that a poet is a species who can respond to scientific facts, then it’s time we got started!

 

 

 

 

Nadia Kingsley and Fair Acre Press Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2015/16

I started this blog some years ago, to document and reflect on process when making work as a sole author or co-devising collaborator. Between times of r&d, rehearsal, or production, like now, I like to share the platform with guests, and bring new voices and potential opportunities to the readers of the blog. I’m excited today to introduce a guest post from Nadia Kingsley of Fair Acre Press who introduces the press, outlines forthcoming developments and publications and – most importantly – introduces the inaugural international Fair Acre Press Pamphlet Competition 2015/16.

Nadia writes:

I first met Kaite  when she came to see us in ‘e-x-p-a-n-d-i-n-g: the history of the Universe in 45 minutes’, at Wenlock Poetry Festival. We knew, beforehand, that we both love the same man – Tom Wentworth. Turns out that we both have partners with passata in their blood; and have both, with hair whipping our faces and salt filling our mouths – walked to Black Rock across the sands of Cei Bach.

I run a small press – but it too is expanding at the moment. In October there will be podcasts and blogs on a new fancy website – from 9 poets, and 4 ecologists on the subjects of spiders, frogs, stinging nettles, and grey squirrels – with an invitation extended out to everyone to send in poems that come out of these prompts and provocations  – to be published in the first four poetry ebooks in the Maligned Species series.

In November 2015 submissions will open to our inaugural international poetry pamphlet competition – judged solely by Jonathan Edwards. One of the categories is for anyone and everyone; but the other is restricted to those who haven’t yet had a pamphlet or collection published. This is the first time I hand over the decision of publishing to someone else – but oh! How lucky am I ! I adore ‘My Family and other Superheroes’, as did the Costa Judges this year – and to read alongside Jonathan Edwards at Wenlock Poetry Festival 2016? Would it be wrong if I entered ?!!!

In 2016 I am so proud to be publishing  John Siddique, Roz Goddard, Emma Purshouse, Andrew Fusek Peters and Lisa Blower – covering three new genres for Fair Acre Press: 6 to 11 yr poetry, Wildlife Photography (hardback, full colour), and general fiction – as well as poetry – twice !

I am working on Kaite, and her agents…. I have read ‘Persians’ – the poem play that won her the 2010 Ted Hughes Award for New Poetry. I have read ‘The Almond and the Seahorse.’ Both are extraordinary – gripping, humane, funny, dark, truthful – all in a light, confident touch. What a vital creature Kaite O’Reilly is! See you on the beach, or over a plate of spaghetti soon, Kaite xx

Nadia

Nadia Kingsley runs Fair Acre Press

www.fairacrepress,co,uk   

Though much of the above is not up on the website yet – if you would like to keep in touch, there will be a mailing list from mid October, but meanwhile:  facebook: Nadia Kingsley  Twitter: @fairacrepress

The Inaugural International Fair Acre Press Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2015/16

SOLE JUDGE: Jonathan Edwards

About Jonathan Edwards:

Jonathan Edwards’s first collection, ‘My Family and Other Superheroes’ (Seren), won the Costa Poetry Award and the Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice Award. It was shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. His poems have won prizes in the Cardiff International Poetry Competition, the Ledbury Festival International Poetry Competition and the Basil Bunting Award, and appeared in magazines including Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, New Welsh Review and The North. Recent projects include a British Council literature exchange to India and a residency at the Dylan Thomas boathouse in Laugharne.

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Jonathan Edwards says:

It’s a great honour to be involved in judging the Fair Acre Press poetry pamphlet competition. Pamphlets I think are so important, and one of the regrets of my writing career so far is that I didn’t publish one myself in advance of my first collection. That initial opportunity for a writers to dip their toes in the water, to try something out, and to begin to build a reputation before a first collection appears – that’s such a valuable thing. Look at the list of writers who went on from successful pamphlets to wonderful first collections in the past few years, and it’s clear how important this stage is. That’s why I’m so pleased that the Fair Acre Press competition is unique in having separate categories for writers who have and haven’t previously published, giving new writers a real chance. For previously published writers, there’s that opportunity to think about the potential of the short form of the pamphlet, what can be done across that space, with a sequence or group of poems, to create a memorable and beautiful short collection.

In terms of what I look for in poems, I think that’s evident from the sort of poems I write. When the world tragically lost the great American poet James Tate this year, the Poetry Society published a tribute to Tate which included this quote from the great American: ‘I love my funny poems, but I’d rather break your heart. And if I can do both in the same poem, that’s the best. If you laughed earlier in the poem, and I bring you close to tears in the end, that’s the best. That’s most rewarding for you and for me too. I want ultimately to be serious, but I can’t help the comic part. It just comes automatically. And if I can do both, that’s what I’m after.’

That sums it up really. I look for work which is accessible, entertaining, which makes me smile or laugh, but which also packs a real emotional punch and is memorable. I love form too, though that’s not the same thing as saying you need to include a villanelle to win. Impress me, move me, make me laugh or cry, make me remember your poems. Good luck!

DEADLINE : November 30th 2015

SUBMISSIONS OPEN: November 1st 2015

ENTRY FEE: £12

CATEGORIES: Both categories are open only to those aged 18 or over.

1. Open to all
2. Open to those who have not previously had a pamphlet or collection published (this includes self-publishing as well, and includes any publications published up to and including 30th November 2015)

PRIZES: There will be two winners – one from each category. Each will receive the same prizes of:

Publication of the submitted pamphlet by Fair Acre Press, with editorial input from Nadia Kingsley

A Launch Reading at Wenlock Poetry Festival 2016  alongside Jonathan Edwards                         (all costs involved in travel and accommodation will be at your own expense)

30 complimentary copies of your winning pamphlet

A ten percent royalty on sales

40% discount on further copies of your pamphlet you would like to buy, as well as 40% discount on any Fair Acre Press publications

Your pamphlet will have an ISBN. It will be submitted to The Poetry Book Society pamphlet choice submission; and to the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet Award; and offered to The Poetry Library, as well as sent to the British Library, and other UK libraries (if requested by them)

Fair Acre Press will send 5 copies out to review – (you are welcome to suggest where to) – and is very happy to send out more, if you foot the bill ! (cost price of pamphlet and p&p)

RULES: please read the rules below before entering this competition. Submissions that do not fulfill the requirements will not be judged, and the entry fee may be forfeited.

ONLINE ENTRY: this will be available on this website from November 1st 2015. I’m afraid postal entries cannot be accepted but I do hope you know someone with a computer who can help you if necessary.

RESULTS: will be announced on the Fair Acre Press website on 4th March 2016

THE PROFITS: from this prize will be ploughed back into Fair Acre Press to support future publishing of poetry. Fair Acre Press really does appreciate your financial support, as well as your interest in this competition.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS: including details of what to enter and how to enter – see below

Nadia Kingsley – founder, owner and editor of Fair Acre Press says:

I am so delighted to have this year’s Costa Poetry Prize winner – Jonathan Edwards – as the sole judge for this – our inaugural poetry pamphlet competition. This means that he will read all the submissions, and the winners will be his choice alone.

It feels kind of odd to hand over control to somebody else – but I KNOW I will love his choices – because his own poetry is so fantastic. I have read, re-read and then re-re-read My Family and Other Superheroes and I have seen Jonathan read at 2014 Wenlock Poetry Festival – both are joyous experiences!

Terms and Conditions for Fair Acre Press Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2015/16

There is a standard fee of £12 per entry

Make sure you enter the category you wish to enter

You may submit as many collections/ entries as you wish.

Your name must not appear anywhere on the manuscript

Online entries can be submitted up to midnight on the 30th November 2015

You will receive an automatic online confirmation of your submission, once your submission is completed.

The two winners will be contacted directly. The results will be posted on the Fair Acre website on 4th March 2016

No postal entries are accepted – sorry. We do hope you can find someone to help you with an online entry – or try your local library if you are in the UK.

Entries are welcome from around the world, but must be written in English.

There is no theme, but we do not accept poetry written for children.

Your work

Up to 30 sides (known as pages) of poetry – each page no longer than 30 lines.

These thirty lines include any title and any line breaks between the title and the first verse; and all line breaks between the verses.

That probably sounds very complicated – but it is so we are sure we can publish it at the high level of production that we are used to, and so that we will be printing a pamphlet with a maximum of 36 pages. This will then be eligible for submission to the Michael Marks Pamphlet Award.

Here are some examples:

ONE PAGE may include, for example, the maximum of:

A title, a line break, then a poem of 28 lines that is not divided into any verses OR

A title, a line break, a poem which is made up of seven verses of 3 lines each, with line breaks between each.

Of course it could be one long poem, 30 single paged poems, or anything inbetween.

Poems may have been published elsewhere, but must not have previously appeared as a published collection.

Copyright remains with the authors

The judge’s decision is final. If in the judge’s opinion no collection achieves a high enough standard, no prizewinner will be chosen.

Entry in the competition will be deemed to be acceptance of these conditions.

Fair Acre Press is able to embark on this competition adventure thanks to the support of the Arts Council England: in that they have made the technology behind its smooth running achievable for Fair Acre Press. It is not in place yet ! But will be by 14th October 2015.

Thank you Arts Council England. You really are A.C.E. !

Meanwhile if you would like to be sure of updates on social media:

FACEBOOK: become friend of Nadia Kingsley
TWITTER: follow @fairacrepress