Tag Archives: Tramway

Theatre as a study of what it is to be human

atypical-plays-for-atypical-actors

This September has been a remarkably rich and exciting month owing to the Unlimited Festivals at Southbank Centre in London and the current one at Tramway, Glasgow. Apart from immersing myself in the art exhibitions, performances, discussions and many events around disability culture and issues of diversity at these festivals, I’ve been ‘in conversation’ and launching my selected plays ‘Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors’. On Saturday 24th September, 2-5pm I will be in conversation with Nicola McCartney and then leading a short workshop/talk ‘Atypical in Action’ at Tramway, 25 Albert Drive, Glasgow G41 2PE. 

What follows is a guest blog I wrote about the workshop and talk and my work, collaborators, and why accessible and culturally diverse work is so essential:

The Study of What it is to be Human…. 

Guest post for: http://www.kimaskswhat.online/2016/09/guest-post-by-kaite-oreilly-theatre-as.html?m=1

Theatre could be defined as the study of what it is to be human. For millennia we have come to sit communally – a group of human beings watching another group of human beings pretending to be other human beings. We are endlessly fascinated with each other, yet a place purported to be about the range of human possibility has for too long been circumscribed and limited, especially towards a quarter of the population.

As I have discussed at length elsewhere, for thousands of years in the Western theatrical canon, the atypical body has been used to scare, warn, explain and explore human frailty, mortality and the human condition. Disability has been a metaphor for the non-disabled to explore their fears and embedded societal values. Although disabled characters appear in thousands of plays, seldom has the playwright been disabled, or written from that embodied, political perspective. Some strange untruths have therefore been created and recycled in our dramas for stage and screen; the rich, rewarding reality of our lives replaced with problematic representations which work to keep ‘us’ different, ‘special’ and apart.

That, thankfully, is changing, with more disabled and Deaf artists coming to the fore across artforms. This is partly owing to the fruits of the UK and US disability civil rights movements, out of which disability arts and culture grew, and the disability arts forums, organisations, and festivals which supported and still encourage this growth. It is also down to initiatives such as Unlimited, keen to promote, commission, and embed the work of disabled and Deaf artists in the ‘mainstream’ on a level never experienced before.

As a multi award winning playwright and dramaturg who identifies as a disability artist, I have been exploring this territory, informed by the social model of disability, working across and between so-called ‘mainstream’ culture and what I coin ‘crip’ culture for several decades. I consider disability a social construct – I am a woman with a sensory and physical impairment, but it is society’s attitudinal and physical barriers which is disabling, not the idiosyncrasies of my body.

In my work I am interested in creating new protagonists, with different narratives, and with different endings – and to challenge and expand the actual theatre languages at play in live performance.

Paul Darke and other Disability performance scholars such as Carrie Sandahl have written about the limited plot lines for the disabled character. Often, as seen again recently with the film version of JoJo Moyes ‘Me Before You’ – it is emphatically ‘better dead than disabled.’ In films and plays stereotypes rule – the blind wise ‘seer’, the evil and twisted mastermind, the hero who overcomes her impairments to ‘pass’ as non-disabled. From Tiny Tim to Richard III to Oedipus, we have been the personification of uselessness, or evil incarnate. These stories and characters are so prevalent, Paul Darke claims the audience believes they understand and know disabled experience, even though it is through a filter that isolates, individualises, medicalises or finally normalises the character. What the audience is experiencing is not the ‘truths’ of our lives, but the long cultural and linguistic practice of ascribing meaning to the atypical body. We are metaphors – something my actor characters in ‘peeling’ are fed up with, and wish to rebel against.

So as a playwright, I try to present different protagonists and different stories – often challenging contemporary representations of disability. The survivors of TBI (traumatic brain injury) in my 2008 play ‘The Almond and the Seahorse’ subvert notions of brain injury splashed across the media and questions who the real ‘victims’ are – if indeed there are any. Protagonists, their journeys and outcomes can be subverted and changed – offering more possibilities and rich, engrossing drama which avoids stereotypes.

I am also involved in ‘aesthetics of access’ – embedding audio description into the text of my script ‘peeling’ – working bilingually in visual and spoken/projected languages. As a hearing woman, I have been blessed with generous Deaf collaborators – Jenny Sealey, Ali Briggs, Denise Armstrong, Ruth Gould, Sophie Stone and especially BSL expert and visual language creative director Jean St Clair. Through our experimentation across spoken and visual languages, they have helped me develop into the playwright and dramaturg I am.

What these devices do, along with what I coined when AHRC creative fellow ‘Alternative Dramaturgies informed by a Deaf and disability perspective’, is make work more accessible, yes, but also challenge the ingrained assumptions and hierarchies in contemporary theatre and culture. When we change the bodies which perform, design, direct, create, and commission the work in our pleasure palaces, when we change the theatre languages used, the processes and practice are inherently changed, too. We can then truly be a place which celebrates all the possibilities of human variety, challenging notions of ‘difference’ and revoking the old stories and their predictable endings.

Kaite O’Reilly will be launching her book Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors, followed by a workshop exploring the aesthetics of access used in her award-winning work, at Tramway on Saturday 24 September 2016, 2pm – 5pm

Book tickets here

More information here

Unlimited Festivals – Southbank Centre and Tramway – September 2016

The Way You Look At Me Tonight, Claire Cunningham

The Way You Look At Me Tonight, Claire Cunningham

The Unlimited Commissions programme aims to embed work by disabled and Deaf artists within the cultural sector, reaching new audiences and shifting perceptions of disability. I’ve just had the confirmed details of the two Unlimited Festivals happening this Autumn in London and Glasgow, and am delighted to say I will be speaking at both.

The first is at Southbank Centre on 6th September , when I’ll be ‘in conversation’ and launching my selected plays Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors. Later in the month I’ll be at Tramway ‘in conversation’ and also leading a workshop/lecture demonstration on 24th September about the aesthetics of access in writing plays and performance texts.

What follows is information from  UNLIMITED:

Tickets are now available for both Southbank Centre and Tramway’s Unlimited Festivals, featuring many of the artists commissioned by Unlimited in 2015 and work we’ve supported through Unlimited Impact.

Southbank Centre’s Unlimited Festival, London
6-11 September 2016

Join Southbank Centre once again for a festival of theatre, dance, music, literature, comedy and visual arts that celebrates difference with a spirit of artistic adventure, honesty and humour. Read more here.

The festival features work from many of Unlimited’s commissioned artists, including: Nama Āto, Richard Butchins, Liz Carr, Claire Cunningham, Jack Dean, Sean Goldthorpe, Sheila Hill, Noëmi Lakmaier, Kaite O’Reilly, Cameron Morgan, Richard Newnham, Bekki Perriman, Nye Russell-Thompson, Ted Shiress, Craig Simpson, Jess Thom and Aaron Williamson.

Tuesday 6 September 2:00pm – 3:00pm  Kaite O’Reilly in conversation/book launch.

http://unlimited.southbankcentre.co.uk/events/book-launch-kaite-oreilly-in-conversation

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Tramway, Glasgow 15-25 September 2016

Tramway’s Unlimited Festival celebrates extraordinary work by disabled artists with an international programme of performance, visual art, discussions and more. Including new and acclaimed productions, exhibitions and participation opportunities, along with a variety of city centre installations, a family day and a two day symposium focusing on emerging artists. Information here.

Featuring the work from artists we’re working with, including: Nama Āto, Liz Carr, Claire Cunningham, Jack Dean, Sheila Hill, Cameron Morgan, Bekki Perriman, Aaron Williamson and Maki Yamazaki.

atypical-plays-for-atypical-actors

Saturday 24 September  2pm – 5pm

Kaite O’Reilly: Book Launch | Atypical in Action

Join multi award-winning playwright Kaite O’Reilly as she presents her latest work. Published by Oberon, Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors is the first of its kind. A collection of six dramas, it redefines notions of normality and expands the scope of what it means to be human, while exploring disability as a portal to new experience. Followed by Atypical in Action, a talk and workshop exploring some of the ‘aesthetics of access’ used in O’Reilly’s work.

Both events in London and Glasgow are free, but ticketed, so please book your place in advance.