Tag Archives: Zarrilli

The Echo Chamber.

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Ian Morgan and Phillip Zarrilli in rehearsals.                                                                   Photo by Kaite O’Reilly

It feels like I’ve gone straight from the airport to the rehearsal room – a subterranean studio by Euston with rolling stock atmospherically rattling across the ceiling every twenty minutes.

I am back to where I started – my opening blogs in August about beginning to make The Echo Chamber with Ian Morgan, director Peader Kirk, and Phillip Zarrilli of The Llanarth Group. The performance will premiere at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff  from 27 January 2012 and we four co-creators are often scattered across the world, working in America, Poland, Greece and the UK. Until our official rehearsal period begins in late December, we seize the opportunity to meet when and where the possibility lands – in this case, with my flight from the US.

It is difficult to know where to begin when so early in a deliberately interrupted process, so we start as we did, before: two bodies in a room, listening and responding to one another. Phillip and Ian immediately find their complicity and Peader and I find ourselves sitting there nodding, sensing the possibilities of what these two performers could do together.

Referring to copious notes and video, we go back and revise, revisiting the semi-structured improvisations and created or found text collated in our August days together. Certain themes emerge – how memory is formed in the brain,  the composition of natural phenomena, the Japanese concept of Yugen, what lies beneath… We open up new improvisations and possible physical scores, agree individual tasks to be completed before our rehearsals in late December and then depart, scattering again in different directions across the capital, dragging, as usual, suitcases behind us.

Information on The Echo Chamber and a downloadable poster and postcard can be found on News on my website: www.kaiteoreilly.com

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working (2): Ty Newydd

I’m reading a collection of short one act plays by a group of writers I’m mentoring as part of an initiative for Ty Newydd, the Writers’ Centre for Wales. The house, dating from the sixteenth century, is near the Snowdonia National park, set between the hills of Eifionydd and the sea, on a green baise lawn with what estate agents call commanding views over Cardigan Bay. It is astonishing and lovely, a perfect place for inspiration, the last home of Lloyd George.

The former prime minister and one of the architects of the Welfare State died in what is now the centre’s upstairs library. It is easy to imagine him perched high in a bed, bolstered by pillows, looking out onto the devastating view.

I’ve been teaching residential courses at Ty Newydd for around fifteen years and the Centre’s director, Sally Baker, is both resilient and visionary, eager to create new experiences for writers. She has indulged my experiments – playwrights working with visiting directors (Jenny Sealey, John McGrath, Phillip Zarrilli, Mike Pearson) – site-specific work, with a dozen writers taking over the house and grounds, making performances in every unlikely location, and the likely ones, too. She has even indulged our late night carousing and my ghost stories, particularly my insistence that Lloyd George’s spirit can be sensed in the upstairs bathroom, what had been his personal privvy. I mean no disrespect, I’m merely repeating what I’ve been told,  with a few tiny embellishments, which is to be expected at Ty Newydd, where stories take flight.

The great man is not buried in the Llanystumdwy churchyard, but down the lane from the house in the wooded valley of the Afon Dwyfor, under a huge stone. It feels Celtic and pagan and immensely appropriate. There is a hush around his memorial, as though the birds themselves have taken a moment to reflect. Whenever I walk down, there is always a writer, pen poised, breathing in the dappled air.

The mentoring course is taking place over a six month period with developmental workshops either end, March and September. The writers then develop and revise their plays between these two points of contact, with dramaturgical feedback from me on their drafts.
When we first met in March, the weekend coincided with Theatre Uncut, an initiative set up by Reclaim Productions, with theatres and groups across the UK responding to the coalition government’s spending cuts through a series of play readings, ‘bringing protest to the stage’. One of the writers on the mentoring course, Sandra Bendelow, brought our attention to the event and shared with us the seven short scripts by Lucy Kirkwood, Dennis Kelly, Laura Lomas, Anders Lustgarten, Mark Ravenhill, Jack Thorne and Clara Brennan. ‘Why don’t some of us participate in the weekend, and do a reading?’ Sandra suggested. She chose Mark Ravenhill’s script, which explored the dreams of a past generation through the 2010 student protests. Marge and Fred, figures from the past, celebrate the birth of the Welfare State whilst a contemporary character observes the plans for its dismantling.
And so we found ourselves standing around Lloyd George’s grave at dusk, reading him Ravenhill, telling him what was happening to his extraordinary achievement, the audacious dream which had been the envy of the world for so long.

Afterwards, we trailed back in the gloaming, reflective and silent.