Just as the initial two days of research and development on Cosy have been of great benefit to Kaite O’Reilly as the playwright, our process has been immensely beneficial to me as the director. Very early (1-2 May 2015) we auditioned a wealth of disabled and non-disabled actresses. We then spent one and one-half days (17-18 June 2015) working on the script in the rehearsal room in Cardiff, and had a reading of the script-in-hand for an invited audience at Graeae Theatre Company’s Studio in London.
My first task as director of Cosy is to assist Kaite in developing the best script she can within the context of what appears to be a ‘family drama’. Throughout our process, including our two days of research and development, I have provided dramaturgical feedback to Kaite as she has been refining and further developing the nuances of the script for the reading.
My second task is to actualize as best I can the potential of Kaite’s script through my work as we select the cast for the six wonderful roles Kaite has written, and to guide the actors as they work on the nuances and complexities of Kaite’s script. Cosy has a cast of six women, including Rose (76 year-old matriarch of the family); her three daughters—Ed (56), Camille (early 50s), and Gloria (late 40s); her granddaughter (Camille’s daughter, Isabella, 16); and Rose’s ‘friend’—Maureen. For the two-day R & D period, we cast the core ‘family’ with five Welsh actresses: Rose (Sharon Morgan), Ed (Ri Richards), Camille (Ruth Lloyd), Gloria (Llinos Daniel), Isabella (Bethan Rose-Young) who created a wonderfully dynamic and complex family at the reading. Finally, we cast Welsh actress, Sara Beer, as the quirky ‘companion/friend-to-Rose/outsider-to-the-family’.
Our first day of R & D began with a simple reading of the script so that Kaite could hear and respond to her first draft. After this initial reading we had an extensive discussion of the script, allowing actors to raise questions about their roles, and discussing some of the unique demands the script has for actors—the juxtaposition of the comedic element arising from the family dynamics once the female clan has gathered at the family home with the existential impact of how an aging woman faced the ‘facts’ of her aging and the loss of agency that confronts women as they age.
Having directed the premiere productions of two of Kaite’s other plays, The Almond and the Seahorse (Sherman Cymru, 2008), and the 9 Fridas (Taipei Arts Festival with Mobius Strip and Hong Kong Rep, 2014), I know how difficult a task it is to guide actors toward the kind of nuanced playing of the types of characters that Kaite writes, and the complexities of the situations in which she places her characters.
Our remaining session on the first day of development, and final session in London prior to the reading of Cosy, were devoted to (1) trying out new text Kaite was writing in response to the initial reading and our work on the script; (2) having ‘working’ rehearsals on each of the five scenes in order to begin to explore the nuances of each scene; and (3) providing directorial feedback to each actor on the playing of specific/key moments in each scene.
From my directorial perspective, it was a ‘luxury’ to have these days to work with this potential cast of six. In our day and a half of development work, the cast collectively provided our audience with a highly credible initial reading of Kaite O’Reilly’s second draft.
These two days together have allowed me to get to know each of these actresses as individual professionals, as well as how they might work together on Kaite O’Reilly’s dynamic and highly complex script.