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.
‘At Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre, an all-female, all-Welsh cast including Sharon Morgan will perform Kaite O’Reilly’s new play Cosy; a provocative, brutally honest but at times laugh-out-loud work that asks big questions about how – and when – our lives draw to a close. It will then be performed as part of the Unlimited festivals in London and Glasgow, in September 2016. This darkly comic new work combines an unflinching examination of our attitudes to youth, ageing and death, with an often hilarious and moving encounter between three generations of women.' – The Disability Arts Online
Kaite O’Reilly was on BBC Radio Wales with Nicola Haywood Thomas on 17th February and was also interviewed by Joe Turnbull for an article appeared on 4th March on The Stage. Among the others, The Guardian also dealt with Kaite’s new play.
‘Kaite O’Reilly has always been a rule breaker… Her latest work Cosy… [is] ostensibly a traditional family drama encompassing three generations of women, which tackles the thorny issue of end-of-life scenarios and ageing.’ – Exeunt Magazine