Told By The Wind
Two figures, two lives, multiple time spaces: Told By The Wind is a performance of movement and text that ‘dances’ an inner landscape. Inspired by East Asian and ‘post-dramatic’ aesthetics, stories are evoked and told by embodied silences, splintered interactions, and slowed down motion.
Transformative and multi-layered, Told By The Wind is informed by Japanese Theatre of Quietude and String Theory [Quantum physics]. Intimate and meditative, it is a requiem for the unseen; a poignant duet for two figures who never physically meet.
“a haunting, painterly beauty... hypnotic … the astringent purity of a haiku…The performers have a remarkable presence...” (**** The Guardian)
“easily the most hypnotic piece theatre I have experienced” (British Theatre Guide)
“minimal…mesmerizing... evokes both later T.S. Eliot and haiku…” (Chicago Dance)
“Beckettian magnetic poetry… dropped like shapeless stones into a moonlit lake of silence… Each dances the other’s absence. Both are beautiful movers…” (Chicago Time Out)
Told By The Wind is available for touring.
Premiere: Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, then touring between 2009-2013 through the UK, The Dance Center (Chicago, USA), The Grotowski Institute (Wroclaw, Poland), Tokyo Theatre Babylon (Japan), Theatre in the Landscape Festival (Evora, Portugal).
Told by the Wind premiered at Chapter Arts Centre, Market Road, Cardiff, 29th January 2010. Previewed in 2009. Most recent performances: 2013 (Tokyo) and 2016 (Wales and England tour).
REVIEWS IN FULL
Review by Elisabeth Mahoney (2 February 2010)
Told By The Wind
Four stars ****
Stripped of most elements we associate with drama, this intense meditation in movement revels in stillness. It’s so still at times, you worry that scratching your head or crossing your legs will be audible to all. Performers Jo Shapland and Phillip Zarrilli, with writer Kaite O’Reilly, draw on Asian aesthetics, string theory and the Japanese theatre of quietude to present something that is beyond linear narrative, character and gripping plot twists.
Instead, they offer fragments of memory, speech and gestures, composed in moments that have a haunting, painterly beauty to them. A man and a woman are on stage together at all times, but never connect; he speaks a little, tugged at by the past, she remains silent, trying to form words but expressing herself physically as she shuffles, runs and dances in bare soil.
With no dialogue or fathomable action to follow, you try to make connections even though everything resists them. Is she in the memory he speaks of? Is she a character in the music he is writing, or the dance he appears to choreograph? What happens, slowly, is that those nagging questions subside and a calmer understanding emerges. It's all very hypnotic, with repeated small movements and shards of sentences, and it has the astringent purity of a haiku poem, though haiku seems positively wordy in comparison.
The performers have a remarkable presence, even when their movement is barely perceptible. This is a challenging production, but oddly affecting and quietly cleansing. On the opening night, the audience lingered at the end, as if not wanting to head back out into the noisy, demanding world.
Theatre in Wales
Review by Adam Somerset (12 October 2016)
Kaite O’Reilly was at London’s South Bank on September 6th for a discussion event to accompany the launch of a new play collection from Oberon Books Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors. Her presence on a conversation platform, as part of the “Unlimited” Festival, was relaxed and assured, one aspect being that several members of her audience had been her collaborators going back thirty years. The public event filled in some of the gaps of a unique three-stranded life in theatre. Yard at the Bush Theatre was a piece of small-cast realism suited for that characteristic space. It hinted little at the variegation of the career to come that had started post-education as an actor with Graeae. The Almond and the Seahorse is included in the new volume, a play that at one level was a mainstream Wales touring production. As Mandel & Seepferdchen it played at the Franconia Theatre in March this year. Apart from making mention of the dramaturg role and the adaptation of Aeschylus she made mention of the long-standing collaboration with Philip Zarrilli and their Llanarth Group.
“Slow Theatre for a Fast World” is included in her audience introduction to a Sunday afternoon reprise of Told By The Wind. It has been seen in Japan, USA, Germany, Poland, and Portugal. A Chicago dance critic saw resemblance to a haiku, the late pared-down T.S. Eliot with shadings of Beckett. The two performers have both appeared in print before the tour. Jo Shapland writes for Arts Scene in Wales from the perspective of the dancer. An article by Philip Zarrilli in Wales Arts Review of 29th September “Beneath the Surface” writes of the motives from the standpoint of a director-performer-scholar.
It is a rich introduction to the artistic tradition of Japan, not least to a prevailing spirit of quietude and a principle of aesthetics that “emphasises simplicity, impermanence, and the unique ‘beauty’ associated with natural processes of the passing the time.” Zarrilli touches too on the physics of Brian Greene, which provided theme and structure for playwright Nick Payne to write his “Constellations.”
All of which was looked at subsequent to the experiencing of Told by the Wind. A man and a woman occupy Small World’s central space along with a pair of chairs, a small desk and a lowered window, all in a common distressed condition of paint. There are words but not many, ten minutes in a show of an hour. If multi-cast drama is akin to the colour and sweep of a Rubens or a Tintoretto this is like gazing into the limitless depth of a Samuel Palmer. It comes without music so that the brushing of a fern on wood takes on a quality of audibility, and significance, unrealisable in the outer world. With sound and action honed to an essence the result asks for a heightened attention. That required quality of attentiveness shared across an audience is not just salutary in itself but nudges into zones of philosophical enquiry. Attention was a cornerstone for the thought of Simone Weill — “the virtue of humility is nothing more or less than the power of attention.”
Small gestures that say nothing explicitly assume a weight of signification; eternity indeed is to be found in a grain of sand.
British Theatre Guide
Review by Allison Vale (February 2010)
I’ll be honest. I’m a fan of traditional, narrative theatre. I like being part of a passive audience, soaking up a damn fine plot, executed by fully developed characters. I enjoy the security of the alternative reality they create.
I’m not an advocate of “Death to the Author”; I’m generally not drawn to post-modern theatre.
So sitting in Chapter’s beautifully re-vamped foyer, waiting to be let in to Told By The Wind at 8pm on the dot, I braced myself as I read that I was to be treated to an evening of “post-dramatic aesthetics… String Theory and Japanese Theatre of Quietude”. Frankly, I wasn't at all sure I wanted to be compelled to find my own meaning and significance in “embodied silences, splintered interactions and slowed-down motion”.
In fact Told By the Wind is easily the most hypnotic piece theatre I have experienced. The extraordinary poise and perfection in the movement, texting and staging of this piece makes for a beautifully contemplative sixty minutes.
Kaite O’Reilly’s hauntingly poetic snatches of text ripple through the piece, adding texture without informing plot or character. The slow, silent grace of this play without dialogue, this ballet without music, makes the experience of sitting in the audience a wholly introspective one.
Theatre in Wales
Review by Michael Kelligan (9 March 2008)
The Llanarth Group, Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff, 31 January 2010
This is a kind of kinetic work of fine art, though the painter works alone, here the work has arisen from a symbiosis of three very experienced and deeply sensitive artists working in perfect harmony from the inception of the project to its presentation.
A man, not young, in crumbled clothes sits at an old white bureau. He is looking out through a window, the coming of autumn troubles him, he recalls he is not comfortable walking with the dew on the ground. He turns his head inwards, he may be looking for the younger woman who is sitting at the other side of the stage, She turns her head, she may be looking for him. As the wind gently blows forward their movements intermingle. They never meet. Did they know each other once? Are they yearning for each other? Are they just figures passing by in the evening light?
Writer Kaite O’Reilly and performers Phillip Zarrilli and Jo Shapland have invited another consummate artist to enable them to complete their landscape. Lighting designer Ace McCarron paints the stage pictures with a delicate warm autumn gold complementing the dreamlike quality of the action. The long quiet stillness of the opening sequence has us questioning it in the early moments but very soon we are captivated, mesmerised we, well for me anyway I was drawn into a dream like state and I shared my dream with the figures on the stage before me completely drawn into an aesthetic inspired by Japanese Theatre of Quietude.
They were able to evoke so much emotion with such simplicity. Zarrilli elegantly stumbled in the light whilst Shapland ran and danced with spirited elegance. There might well be a touch of Svengali and Trilby, but with only benign influences here. Jo Shapland, multi-disciplinary artist, choreographer, and performer trained with Zarrilli for ten years. Phillip Zarrilli is internationally known for training actors in psychophysical process through Asian martial/meditation arts. He runs a private studio (Tyn-y-parc C.V.N. Kalari/Studio) in Wales, and conducts workshops throughout the world. His latest highly acclaimed publication: Psychophysical Acting: An intercultural approach after Stanislavski is now regarded as essential reading for everyone working and exploring this field.
Kaite O’Reilly is one of Wales’s most successful playwrights. She is now working on a new version of Aeschylus’s Persians to be directed by Mike Pearson for the National Theatre of Wales in August.