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Kaite O'Reilly - disability arts online
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Preparations for Unlimited with the 'Cymru Crips' / 9 November 2011

photo of a group of disabled performers

Kay Jenkins, Macsen McKay, Rosaleen Moriarty-Simmonds, Sara Beer, Phillip Zarrilli, Kaite O’Reilly and Maggie Hampton at the National Theatre Studio 2009.

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When I received the Arts Council Wales Creative Wales Major Award back in 2008, I spent a year exploring the form of the dramatic monologue, seeing solo work in Europe and the US, meeting and being mentored by experts of the form, like Sara Zatz and Ping Chong Company in New York. I shadowed part of Ping Chong’s 'Undesirable Elements' series, watching testimonial theatre in various school halls and community centres in Brooklyn, the participants/performers using their own autobiographies to address the experience  and reality of being disabled in NYC.

Throughout this period, I was writing monologues in a variety of styles and dramaturgies, informed and inspired by my interactions with Deaf and disabled people across Wales. Unlike Verbatim, or the testimonial theatre of Ping Chong Company, I chose not to use the actual stories I had been told, but used  these anecdotes and experiences as inspiration, and created fictional drama informed by these interactions.

At the end of the year, the experiment proved to be a success and worth persevering with. A script-in-hand sharing of early work at Unity Festival at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff brought outstanding reviews and I later brought what I coined ‘The Cymru Crips’, a group of performers I’d been working with in South Wales – Sara Beer, Rosaleen Moriarty-Simmonds, Kay Jenkins and Macsen McKay – to The National Theatre Studio in London, for a further script-in-hand showing when I was there on attachment in 2009.

I was further encouraged by receiving an Unlimited Commission from the Cultural Olympiad, part of the celebrations to develop the project across the UK. But that is a further story…