Bookshelf: Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors

Cover of Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors

Kaite O’Reilly has won various awards for her work, including the Peggy Ramsay Award for YARD (Bush Theatre, London), Manchester Evening News Best Play of 2004 for Perfect (Contact Theatre) and was one of the winners of the 2009 International Susan Smith Blackburn Award for The Almond and the Seahorse (Sherman Cymru). Her new version of Aeschylus’s Persians was directed in August 2010 by Mike Pearson site-specifically on Ministry Of Defence land in Wales, part of the inaugural year of National Theatre Wales, and won the 2011 Ted Hughes Award for New Works in Poetry. She works extensively within disability arts and culture, and wrote the ground breaking peeling for Graeae Theatre in 2002.

O’Reilly’s ‘Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors’ (Oberon Books, 2016) is the first collection of plays which places disabled and deaf actors and characters centre stage, and are written by a writer who is at the forefront of disability arts culture.

It is also a collection of plays which will make you reconsider the common language of plays. It will make you think about the usual form of a play which actually excludes any actor who might not fit the norms of ability. It might even make you question whether your own writing needs to change in order to embrace every aspect of the human condition.

There are plays featuring a range of disabilities which broaden the range of characters we usually see on stage.

peeling takes a meta-theatrical format as the three chorus members discuss the play they are and their lives using sign supported English, BSL and audio description. Reading this play was a particularly eye opening experience as the extra forms of communication add multiple layers.

The  Almond and the Seahorse deals with traumatic brain injury,  and Cosy is about eugenics and assisted suicide, issues which are at the forefront of disability politics. These two plays are more traditional in format, though none-the-less offer surprises.

The monologues In water I’m weightless were developed through extensive conversations with disabled and deaf people about every aspect of their lives. O’Reilly wanted to capture ‘the spiked angry early energy of the disability rights movement as I watched from 2010 onwards David Cameron’s Conservative government dismantle may of the equal rights and benefits we had won…’ This play feels particularly relevant now, as more and more rights are dismantled for disabled and able-bodied alike, and, as with the rest of the plays reproduced in this collection, the texts only serve to underline that despite our differences we are also the same in many ways.

In The 9 Fridas, Frida Kahlo is reclaimed as a disability icon in a mosaic of a play where Frida Kahlo is played by multiple actors.

The form and content of the plays tests not only what a play is, but also who we tell stories about. The play texts are open to being expanded by the actors and the production design. This is very much recommended reading.

Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors
Kaite O’Reilly
Oberon Books, £16.99
Kaite O’Reilly’s website

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Plays and playwrights sought for WPI 2018 Conference

WPI Chile logo

WPIC – Chile 2018

Women Playwrights International (WPI) is an international not-for-profit and non-governmental networking organization for women playwrights. Their goals are to extend opportunities for international networking; to increase production opportunities; to encourage the development of craft; to defend the right to engender artistic forms; to encourage informed critique; and to advocate against censorship and political persecution for women playwrights of all races, classes, ages, ethnic, or religious background, sexual preferences, and women with disabilities.

I was lucky enough to attend the WPI Conference in Sweden in 2012. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet playwrights from all around the world, see their work and participate in discussions.  I have been asked to help coordinate writers and plays from the UK for the 2018 Conference in Chile.

As a non-funded organisation where everyone is volunteering, the delegates and selected playwrights must fund their own trip, accommodation conference ticket (which includes daily lunch and all events) and all other expenses, though you may be able to apply for funding given the long lead-in. The conference will be held in Spanish (with simultaneous presentation in English), so there will also be a cost for work to be translated into Spanish.

The conference takes place in Santiago, Chile from October 7th until October 12th, 2018.

The overall theme is: territory, society and female playwriting. The conference will encompass: play readings; round tables; stagings; workshops; opening and closing ceremonies; documentary screenings; guided visits; concerts; and a visit to Valparaíso, as well as informal networking evenings in the bar!

They are looking for plays (or excerpts of plays) from UK female playwrights of no more than 40-50 minutes. The plays should address one of the following themes:  Alimentation and access to potable water; Territory; Bodies; Memories; Wars and armed conflicts; Natural resources; or, Ancestral voices.

You can of course attend the conference without presenting your work and it’s a great way to meet other female playwrights. If you want to keep up-to-date with the conference planning sign up for the newsletter:

UK based playwrights who are interested in showing work at the conference as well as attending, please send the following information in one PDF to  by 10 January 2017.

  • One page bio.
  • One page synopsis of the play and which theme it relates to and type of audience (family, adult).
  • Complete text of the play.
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17Percent’s bookshelf

The 17Percent bookshelf

The 17Percent bookshelf

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I have been unable to take part fully in the #52 Plays by Women challenge, so instead I’ve compiled a list (with links where possible to buy) of 52 plays by women on the 17Percent bookshelves in no particular order. I found I was about 10 plays short, so I’ve also added some recent plays which I’ve seen or heard about and am hoping to get hold of.

Some of these I’ve had for years, some of them have been bought in second hand and charity shops, some bought at performances, so not all are in print. Of course I’ve also added in my own play My Mind is Free…

I enjoyed compiling this list and might make it a regular thing – so if you have a play you’d added to the 17Percent bookshelf, please email us.

1: Red Velvet By Lolita Chakrabarti  

2: Good fun by Victoria Wood
3: Talent by Victoria Wood
In Plays

4: Adrenalin… Heart by Georgia Fitch

5: A raisin in the sun by Lorraine Hansberry

6: The weather by Clare Pollard

7: In Skagway by Karen Ardiff

8: Our Country’s Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker
in Plays 1 by Timberlake Wertenbaker

9: The Swallowing Dark by Lizzie Nunnery

10: Occupied by Carla Grauls

11: The three birds by Joanna Laurens

12: Handbagged by Moira Buffini

13: My mind is free by Sam Hall

14: Zero Down by Sarah Hehir

15: Child Z by Sarah Hehir

16: Gone too far! By Bola Agbaje

17: I and the village by Silva Semerciyan

18: Catch by April de Angelis, Stella Feehily, Tanika Gupta, Chloe Moss and Laura Wade

19: A single act by Jane Bodie

20: 4.48 psychosis by Sarah Kane
21: Phaedra’s Love by Sarah Kane
in Complete Plays

22: Vinegar Tom by Caryl Churchill Dusa, Fish, Stars and Vi by Pam Gems
23: Tissue by Louise Page
24: Aurora Leigh by Michelene Wandor
In Plays by women vol 1

25: A taste of honey by Shelagh Delaney

26: The family legend by Joanna Baillie
in Female playwrights of the nineteenth century

27: The feign’d courtesans by Aphra Behn
28: The busybody by Susannah Centlivre
in Female playwrights of the Restoration

29: Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks

30: Rutherford and son by Githa Sowerby
31: Top girls by Caryl Churchill
32: Stones in his pockets by Marie Jones
in Classic plays by women

33: Purple Cloud by Jessica Huang (no script available)

34: The Diary of a Hounslow Girl by Ambreen Razia

35: The 56 by LUNG (Gemma Wilson and Matt Woodhead)
36: E15 by LUNG (Helen Monks and Matt Woodhead)
contact LUNG theatre company for a copy

37: Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off  by Liz Lochhead

38: The cutting by Maureen O’Brien

39: And all the children cried by Judith Jones and Beatrix Campbell in collaboration with Annie Castledine (no script available)

40: No guts no heart no glory by Aisha Zia

41: Can this be England? By Jackie Bartlett, Angela Howard & Angela Neville (free download)

42: Joanne by Deborah Bruce, Theresa Ikoko, Laura Lomas, Chino Odimba & Ursula Rani Sarma

43: Welcome to Ramallah by Sonja Linden and Adah Kay
44: Sweet Cider by Emteaz Hussain
in Plays for Today by Women

45: Fleabag by Phoebe Waller-Bridge

46: Girls by Theresa Ikoko

47: Oil by Ella Hickson

48: How to date a feminist by Samantha Ellis

49: Summer Rolls by Tuyen Do (no script available)

50: The Husbands by Sharmila Chauhan

51: Treasure Island by Bryony Lavery

52: The Nether by Jennifer Haley


Posted in Aurora Metro Books, Books, female playwrights, Nick Hern Books, play publishing, plays, plays by female writers, Plays for today by women, Samuel French, Women playwrights, women writers | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Women Centre Stage: Power Play

Sphinx Theatre’s Women Centre Stage Festival takes place 14-20 November 2016 at the Actors Centre and Hampstead Theatre and has a great lineup; workshops, discussions, live performances and new plays from some of the country’s leading names and most exciting new talents creating more and better roles for women.

This year’s festival will feature a jam packed programme of leading UK theatre stars and professionals includes Janet Suzman, Howard Brenton, Anna Ledwich, April de Angelis, Cecilia Noble, Vinay Patel, GRAEAE, Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Charlene James, Winsome Pinnock, Kathryn Pogson, The Hiccup Project plus many more leading and exciting new talents.

There is lots of good stuff during the festival, so checkout the full programme, but of particular interest to writers might be the following sessions:

A workshop for writers exploring existing female protagonists and how we can develop our ambition in terms of writing for women, led by writer Lisa Evans.
20 November, 19:00-20:00
Six months in development, we present new writing from the Sphinx Writers Group; Dawn King, Georgia Christou, Jessica Sian and Catriona Kerridge.. This performance will take place in the Studio at Hampstead Theatre.

20 November, 20.30-21.30
Four writers are given 24 hours to write a new play responding directly to that day’s news headlines. The new work will be rehearsed on the day of the festival and presented at the end of the day as the Festival Finale. Featuring four new plays from Howard Brenton, Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Charlene James and Vinay Patel.

“This is Russian roulette theatre-making on a high wire!” Howard Brenton on the 24 Hour Plays. This performance will take place in the Main House at Hampstead Theatre.

The Sphinx Test

The Sphinx Test


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Love, Sex and Apps

Love, Sex and Apps premieres a double-bill of multimedia plays, The Tinder Game and
Border Control, from award-winning playwright, Michelle Sewell, which take a brutally
honest look at the way we communicate and relate to others in our digital world.


Michelle Sewell is the winner of the Malcolm Bradbury Award. She graduated with a
distinction from the Masters of Creative Writing from the University of East
Anglia. She has been a writer in residence at Arcola Theatre, The North Wall and the
Australian National Studio. She is currently a BFI Writer in Development, and she is
attached to the SOHO young writer’s group. Her credits include: The Games We Played,
Theatre 503 (2016), and Strings, Manipulate international visual theatre festival (2016).

Runner up for the Nugent-Monck Prize, Michelle’s play, Border Control, presents a love
story and a piece of postmodern, political theatre which represents the globalized time
in which we live and the obstacles faced by people from different countries who are in
love but are displaced.

Love, Sex and Apps speaks about what it means to be in a relationship today.
It will premiere at The Bread & Roses Theatre at 7.30pm from 22nd November – 3rd

Check website for more information.

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Clapham Fringe 2016

Now in its second year, the Clapham Fringe is a Performing Arts Festival taking place at The Bread & Roses Theatre from 20th October to 6th November 2016. With 29 different productions and 48 performances altogether, over three weeks the Clapham Fringe will host a variety of performances including theatre, comedy, storytelling and cabaret. Also celebrating its 2nd year anniversary, The Bread & Roses Theatre, will produce a special edition of their in-house new writing night, The Platform.

With something for everyone at this growing festival the Clapham Fringe is a great opportunity to discover and experience an exciting line-up of performances in the vibrant South West London area. The Clapham Fringe was founded, and is currently produced, by Rebecca Pryle and Tessa Hart, the team who also founded and manage The Bread & Roses Theatre. For 2016 Velenzia Spearpoint is also joining the team as an Associate Producer.

The Fringe features a good proportion of plays written, produced and directed by women, and with women centre stage. For the full lineup please visit the website.

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Hashtag 52 plays by women

On Monday, a brilliant new international theatre parity advocacy call to action launches on social media: #52playsbywomen. This international campaign has been started by American writer Laura Annawyn Shamas.

Could you see a play by a woman a week for a year and tell everyone about it on Twitter? (Readings count and if there are not enough performed plays available by women writers in a specific region, reading a play by a woman playwright instead that week is fine.) This should last for a year, so that each participant will have experienced #52playsbywomen.
The rules are simple:

I. Pledge to see a play by a woman (including woman-identified) playwright each week for a year. If you’d like (optional), you can announce your pledge on social media, something like:
“I pledge to see a play by a woman playwright each week for one year to support #52playsby women. Follow my choices here.”

II. Post a tweet each week with

1.  the playwright’s name,
2.  the play’s title, and
3.  the hashtag #52playsbywomen.

This is an international campaign, and all are welcome to be part of it. Find the full information here.


Posted in advocacy, Debate, female playwrights, gender equality, plays by female writers, Plays for today by women, plays to see, Women playwrights, women writers | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Sarah Pitard is a finalist in Papatango

Sarah Pitard

Sarah Pitard

Congratulations to Sarah Pitard, the only female finalist in the Papatango new writing competition 2016.

Of 1,053 entries, the winner was Orca by Matt Grinter, and the other finalists were Gareth Jandrell, Sarah, Dean Poulter, and Chris Salt.

Sarah’s play Full Tilt is about the aftermath of a school shooting, which deals with themes of survivor’s guilt, the effects of the main stream media, motherhood, and the power of support from family and friends.

After a devastating national tragedy, Carrie, an artist and mother, struggles to make sense of a world where evil exists, and the place she and her young daughter have in it. Let’s ask the media: At what point does being paralyzed by survivor’s guilt make you a victim?

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A new feminist theatre festival at N16

HerStory social media imageTheatre N16 has created a new two-day festival of women’s work, and stories.

Herstory Festival is a chance for up and coming playwrights and artists to tackle important issues surrounding feminism and by doing so creating a platform for discussion and an opportunity to instigate change. During the two days of the festival Theatre N16 will showcase rehearsed new writing, performance art pieces and solo shows.

It is time to make HERSTORY, not history.

From a one woman verbatim piece about her grandmother’s life in Ghana, to a two-hander about the male and female perspective of being a victim of sexual assault, to a short comedy about objectification; this two-day festival is going to be full of diversity and talent. It will also be a great chance of starting a discussion regarding the subjects of female equality and the under-representation of women in the arts industry.

6-7 August at Theatre N16
Starts 7pm
Day tickets £7 / Weekend tickets £10
The Bedford, 77 Bedford Hill, Balham, SW19 9HD
More info

Posted in Plays for today by women, plays to see, theatre programming, Women playwrights, women writers | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Yet? : a new play from Swedish playwright Katie Berglof

Happy Yet posterOpen Mind Production introduces ‘Happy Yet?’, a dark comedy by the 21 year-old Swedish playwright Katie Berglof. ‘Happy Yet?’ is scheduled for daily performances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from the 15th -27th August in the Space @ Surgeon’s Hall.

Happy Yet?’ offers a fresh and thought-provoking take on depression and mood swings – from an attic apartment in Stockholm. With a pinch of Nordic noir and a satirical twist, the play tells the story of a family’s inability to understand Uncle Torsten and his battle against his unstable mind. Torsten’s façade of confidence and charisma can fool everyone – except his young niece, Nina. Living in his brother’s home, Torsten is surrounded by constant reminders of his inadequacy and inability to fit into the so-called real world. As the light-hearted judge to his failures and mischief making, Nina is Torsten’s reason to keep going. Through Torsten’s intelligence, quick wit and unnerving charm,‘Happy Yet?’ addresses the complexities and humiliations of mental illness.

‘Happy Yet?’ draws on the personal experience of the playwright who watched a family member suffer from a life-time of being misdiagnosed and misunderstood.

‘Happy Yet?‘ marks the debut of Open Mind Productions, a group committed to tackling issues of mental health. The team of young writers, artists and directors, all new to the Fringe, meet regularly at local pubs and cafes around Edinburgh- the historic hub of the Enlightenment – to explore how the arts can contribute to a more enlightened, modern take on a taboo subject: our mental health. With an energetic cast of young actors, ‘Happy Yet?’ exposes the tragic outcomes of our modern ignorance of the link between intelligence and mental illness; and conditions that are still harshly judged – and poorly understood.


Venue: the Space @ Surgeons Hall (V53)
Date: 15th-27th August 2016 (not 21st)
Times vary: 10.50am 15th -20th, 11.50 22nd -27th
Duration: 1h15
Tickets: £7/£5

Twitter: @happyyet2016

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