Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors: Selected Plays
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.
‘An invaluable and long over-due collection of untold stories that deserve to take centre stage.’ Lyn Gardner, The Guardian
‘Kaite O’Reilly is a poet of the human condition, a singer of temporal lapses, gaps, translations, missed connections and joyful vibrancy. The performance texts collected here show depth, pain and pleasure. They squeeze the reader, asking her to feel a human touch on her own skin, in her flesh, in the nervous system: this is work that reaches out, and demands that we feel sensations in response. You will be moved.’ Petra Kuppers. Professor, University of Michigan, and artistic director of Olympias
‘Kaite O'Reilly's dense, dangerous play ... has all the deceptive simplicity and hopeful despair of a Samuel Beckett play. As in Beckett, the characters are tragic and comic, heartbreaking and ridiculous. As in Beckett the joke is ultimately on us. This is a major piece of theatre’ Lyn Gardner, The Guardian
‘a powerful and important piece of work ... A minor feminist masterpiece ... Quietly groundbreaking’ Joyce McMillian, The Scotsman
‘humorous, sardonic, disbelieving, outraged, foul-mouthed, quarrelsome, defiant ... O'Reilly's dialogue has the punch and sparseness of the late Sarah Kane's suicide play, 4.48 Psychosis’ Benedict Nightingale, The Times
‘The spirits of Bertold Brecht and Samuel Beckett hover over Kaite O'Reilly's peeling ... and it's a teasing, provocative combination, this marriage of Brecht's alienation-effect sloganising with Beckett's sumptuous inertia ... a droll, self-deconstructing piece of theatre that is far too clever to be pigeonholed.’ Dominic Cavendish, The Daily Telegraph
The Almond and the Seahorse
‘[In] Kaite O'Reilly's tremendous new play about the emotional aftermath of serious head injury…. extraordinary scenarios are tenderly drawn and powerfully realised… This unmissable drama…. confronts the uncomfortable reality of what happens to life, and even the most patient love without [memory].’ Elizabeth Mahoney. The Guardian ★★★★★
‘bold and affecting…. compelling and emotionally charged… O' Reilly passionately believes in the need to stage issues of disability in mainstream theatre. Her award-winning work with the disabled-led theatre company, Graeae, also stands testimony to this passion. But this play goes far beyond simply providing a platform for the playwright's political agenda: this is a powerful drama, beautifully written, which says as much about the universal themes of life, love, death and devotion as it does about disability.’ Alison Vale, British Theatre Guide.
‘Kaite O’Reilly’s powerful new play… Impressively researched, documentary in style, with the all too human heartaches exposed…. Superb.’ The Stage
‘flashes of brilliance… a fascinating work, totally engaging and a text worth delving into again and again.’ Western Mail
‘Dense and multi-layered… Like [Rothko and Satie] Kaite O’Reilly has complete mastery over a territory that is distinctively her own.’ Adam Somerset. Theatre Wales
In Water I’m Weightless
‘sardonically funny….thrillingly vitriolic’ Alfred Hickling, The Guardian
‘a powerful piece of theatre, shattering any stereotypes…. In Water I’m Weightless – staged as part of London 2012 Cultural Olympiad’s Unlimited programme celebrating disability, arts, culture and sport – is a thought-provoking, beautiful piece of theatre which makes you realise that everyone is unique – and equal.’ Western Mail
‘[In Water I’m Weightless] ends with the almost Shakespearean monologue challenging the very definition of disability in the war-cry like rallying call of “You marvel! You scientific enigma! You medical conundrum…that both proves Darwin and disproves Darwin!” After witnessing this provocative and stimulating play, you’d be hard pressed not to agree’ The Public Reviews
the 9 Fridas
‘Kaite O’Reilly is one of the most respected members of the disability arts world, in the UK and across the globe. Her work crosses between mainstream and disability arts like no other and I am delighted that this long awaited collection is now available. It will be read, studied and enjoyed by anyone interested in excellent writing but most importantly these brilliant plays are crying out to be performed and introduced to a whole new audience.’ Sara Beer, Disability Arts Cymru