Theatre in Wales

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Extraordinary Beauty

And Suddenly I disappear: The Singapore/UK ‘d’ Monologues

The Llanarth Group , Chapter, Cardiff , September-11-18
And Suddenly I disappear: The Singapore/UK ‘d’ Monologues by The Llanarth Group In recent years multi-award winning playwright, Kate O”Reilly has concentrated her work in disability arts. She has also written more ‘conventional’ work, much of which has been seen world- wide. To all her work she brings a poetry and a magic usually with an added touch of beauty from director Phillip Zarrilli.

This latest work gives us all this but much more. It is a strong shout from a representative set of people asserting that they are in no way disabled by their disability and demanding that we look at them without our long suffering sighs.

This work has come to us from the National Museum of Singapore Gallery Theatre via The Purcell Rooms, the Southbank, London, Oxford and Leicester.

Initially we seem to be invited into a dream-like space. In the half-light to some haunting cello music the people in the play walk slowly and seemingly aimlessly around the stage. At times their shadows appear in silhouette on a white screen at the back of the stage.

But once we meet the people we are slapped back into reality. There are six actors and, of course all the words have been created by O’Reilly but you feel you are listening to real people telling us their own stories.

Grace Khoo, from Singapore tells us about her aunt who was made to carry bricks until her back became permanently bent, insisting that no-one pitied her. Her niece tells us “She is my touchstone, one of the disabled ancestors our city is built on, thousands upon thousands, scar upon scar.”

There was this loud-mouthed bald guy in a wheelchair: he told us, plainly, “I don’t believe in disability” and rants on in very down to earth language about the patronisation of do-gooders and so called lead swingers.

Cardiff based Sara Beer, seen as Richard 111 in an earlier O’Reilly production, may be small and misshapen but she is an extraordinary powerful actor with a very fine and flexible voice. She is highly amusing as she tells us “WHAT NOT TO SAY TO SOMEONE WHO IS DEPRESSED” Then she gives us a whole list of paternalistic demands. She brings a beauty as well as a harsh reality as we learn about her experience of being bathed in a care home by a young male carer.

So many times these grand denials tug at our insides.

We can relax a bit when Macsen McKay tells about many of the world famous people like Nelson and Napoleon who were disabled as he wealds a metal shield and sword. There are more people with more words of remarkable defiance and beauty.

Each one of the six performers is totally real and completely captivating. With O’Reilly’s superbly crafted words and these excellent actors we experience an extraordinary and very rewarding work of theatre art.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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