In the first of our ‘Meet the Dramaturg’ series, we caught up with our Associate Dramaturg, Kaite O’Reilly
So, what's a dramaturg? They're someone who supports the development of a play by asking key questions, starting conversations, researching and helping an artist or a director to tell a story.
In 2023-24, we’re working with eight dramaturgs who were selected by an open-call application process. We're really grateful to the John Ellerman Foundation for supporting this programme.
First up, let’s meet Kaite O’Reilly: multi-award-winning playwright and dramaturg, known internationally for her pioneering work in Disability culture.
Kaite has won multiple awards for her work including the Peggy Ramsay Award; the Ted Hughes Award for Persians, produced by National Theatre Wales; her first feature film, The Almond and the Seahorse won the Special Jury’s prize at Dinard Film Festival in 2022. She was also honoured in the 2017/18 International Eliot Hayes Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dramaturgy.
She’s the production dramaturg/narrative director for Rambert’s Peaky Blinders dance theatre, The Redemption of Thomas Shelby. She’s worked internationally from 2020-2023 on productions in the USA, Spain, South Korea, China, Singapore and Wales. Plus she’s published by Faber and Bloomsbury, and has a television series currently in development.
We sat down to find out more about Kaite, her approach and what interested her in working with NTW…
What do you see as a dramaturg’s role in a creative process?
This is like peeling an onion – there’s no singular answer, as I believe the role of the dramaturg depends on where the practice is happening geographically (different countries have different definitions, infrastructures and cultures of practice), where you are in the process, and also what form (a dance dramaturg’s work is different from a dramaturg working with a devising company, is different from text-based new writing…).
When discussing this with Lorne (NTWs’ Artistic Director) some months ago I came up with a long list of different roles and approaches – from script doctor/literary management to rehearsal dramaturg, to production dramaturg, to institution dramaturg, to… It’s a good list, but I’ll need more than 100 words.
What is your approach to dramaturgy?
I’m considered unusual in that I’ve worked across many aesthetics and disciplines, from dance to new writing, to disability arts, Deaf culture, and psychophysical performance. My ‘approach’ per se is shape-shifting. The work is situational, responding to the ecosystem of production and the intersecting interpretations and creative engagement of the company – writers, actors, dancers, directors, producers, designers – and the audiences, all tempered by the socio-political factors of time and space.
In a recent article, I defined it as: “the oil that swirls around all parts of the mechanism/body/engine... A dramaturg ‘tunes’ the engine/body, attempting to ensure all aspects are working together… with the same destination, with consistency and ‘logic’ (even if that is illogical) flowing throughout.”
Why are you interested in working with NTW?
I have a long history and relationship with NTW, being commissioned and produced in its inaugural year (Persians, 2010) and as the official Welsh contingent in the Cultural Olympiad celebrating the London Olympics/Paralympics in 2012. In Water I’m Weightless set an important precedent – the first work written by and performed by a Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent company on a national platform (National Theatre Wales, Wales Millenium Centre and Southbank Centre).
These two productions exemplify the character and culture of NTW that continues to this day – inclusive, non-conformist, risk-taking, striving to connect with our myriad audiences and multiple identities. Who wouldn’t want to work in that context?!