I am very lucky to have many females in my life in Wales that inspire me on a daily basis. It is undeniable that I respond to strong, opinionated, straight-talking women in my work and life. It inspires my work and invigorates my life. However there is one woman in particular whose work, friendship and mentoring has been insurmountable in terms of the inspiration it has given me.
As part of the first year of National Theatre Wales Kaite O’Reilly adapted Persians for Mike Pearson and I can still remember the chills the Messenger speech sent through me as I engaged with the words she had written spoken, on a small TV screen, by Richard Harrington. She deservedly won the Ted Hughes award for poetry for her adaptation, though she still denies that she is a poet even though the poetry of every single line of her adaptation takes your breath away with it’s richness of metaphor and rhythm and poetic eloquence.
Her next collaboration with National Theatre Wales, In Water I’m Weightless was stunning, not simply because of the depth of the imagery embedded in the writing and the force of the dramaturgy but also because you couldn’t leave the theatre without having had your views on disability radically altered.
Her knowledge of theatre texts is astounding and constantly reminds me that no matter how busy or how few hours there are in the day, as writers we should always be reading and seeing the work of others. The depth of research she undertakes for every project is mind-boggling, in writing Leaner, Faster, Stronger she became an expert on genetic and bio-engineering so much so that it was hard to remember she was a playwright and not a scientist. For Persians she read every single translation of the play including ones in languages she didn’t speak!
Her energy is simply frightening at times, on courses at Ty Newydd with her I watch with awe as she powers the group through a day of workshops then will be the last one at night drinking, laughing, singing.
She doesn’t sit back and wait for an agent, director or company to bring her jobs she creates ideas, develops them, she goes knocking on doors to secure the commissions or the funding to ensure that she is working on her terms and producing the work that she wants to write.
She works in collaboration with performers and directors embracing different styles of collaboration, performer led with Good Cop, Bad Cop, director led with Phillip Zarilli and John McGrath and the performer/director/designer/writer melds of the Llanarth Group work.
She debates on forum and panels about the development of new writing or new work but her strongest argument for why writers should be firmly embedded in the development process for performance is proved in her work. She proves with her work that writers should be part of the idea process, the development process, the devising process and the rehearsal process.
She cares fiercely about everything, a quick glimpse of her blog http://kaiteoreilly.wordpress.com/ and you will see her writing about disability, feminism, arts funding amongst a host of other issues whilst promoting the work of other companies and artists like Maya Krishna Rao, Sophie Partridge and Agent 160, whilst also providing inspiration for writers.
She makes me believe that I am a better writer and person then I probably am and it is in living up to her belief in me that I find my way through days when the writing seems too hard and the work seems too overwhelming and so become a better writer and a better person.
She has held my hand firmly, given me the occasional prod, shove and kick up the arse, through every step of my journey setting up and running the Writing for Performance group, setting up a theatre production company and as a writer working on my own projects. Even when is chained to her desk working to a deadline or even when she’s on the other side of the world she always takes the time to support, inspire, challenge and sometimes determinedly push me into action. I know that if I asked “how many women are currently being supported, inspired, challenged and pushed to write, direct, produce, create, do something by Kaite O’Reilly?” the list would be endless, and it wouldn’t just be Wales or the UK it would be throughout the world. Because I know it is not just me who is lucky enough to be firmly embraced by her support but a whole mass of women who are embraced by this very special writer, teacher and woman.