Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

“Slow Theatre for a Fast World”

Kaite O'Reilly

Told by the Wind- The Llanarth Group , Small World Theatre , October-12-16
Kaite O'Reilly by Told by the Wind- The Llanarth Group Kaite O'Reilly was at London's South Bank on September 6th for a discussion event to accompany the launch of a new play collection from Oberon Books “Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors.” Her presence on a conversation platform, as part of the “Unlimited” Festival, was relaxed and assured, one aspect being that several members of her audience had been her collaborators going back thirty years. The public event filled in some of the gaps of a unique three-stranded life in theatre.

“Yard” at the Bush Theatre was a piece of small-cast realism suited for that characteristic space. It hinted little at the variegation of the career to come that had started post-education as an actor with Graeae. “The Almond and the Seahorse” is included in the new volume, a play that at one level was a mainstream Wales touring production. As “Mandel & Seepferdchen” it played at the Franconia Theatre in March this year. Apart from making mention of the dramaturg role and the adaptation of Aeschylus she made mention of the long-standing collaboration with Philip Zarrilli and their Llanarth Group.

“Slow Theatre for a Fast World” is included in her audience introduction to a Sunday afternoon reprise of “Told by the Wind.” It has been seen in Japan, USA, Germany, Poland and Portugal. A Chicago dance critic saw resemblance to a haiku, the late pared-down T S Eliot with shadings of Beckett. The two performers have both appeared in print before the tour. Jo Shapland writes for Arts Scene in Wales from the perspective of the dancer. An article by Philip Zarrilli in Wales Arts Review of 29th September “Beneath the Surface” writes of the motives from the standpoint of a director-performer-scholar.

It is a rich introduction to the artistic tradition of Japan, not least to a prevailing spirit of quietude and a principle of aesthetics that “emphasises simplicity, impermanence, and the unique “beauty” associated with natural processes of the passing the time.” Zarrilli touches too on the physics of Brian Greene, which provided theme and structure for playwright Nick Payne to write his “Constellations.”

All of which was looked at subsequent to the experiencing of “Told by the Wind”. A man and a woman occupy Small World's central space along with a pair of chairs, a small desk and a lowered window, all in a common distressed condition of paint. There are words but not many, ten minutes in a show of an hour. If multi-cast drama is akin to the colour and sweep of a Rubens or a Tintoretto this is like gazing into the limitless depth of a Samuel Palmer. It comes without music so that the brushing of a fern on wood takes on a quality of audibility, and significance, unrealisable in the outer world.

With sound and action honed to an essence the result asks for a heightened attention. That required quality of attentiveness shared across an audience is not just salutary in itself but nudges into zones of philosophical enquiry. Attention was a cornerstone for the thought of Simone Weil- “the virtue of humility is nothing more or less than the power of attention.” Small gestures that say nothing explicitly assume a weight of signification; eternity indeed is to be found in a grain of sand.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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