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Obi Chiejina blogs about the performance of Kaite O'Reilly's 'In Water I'm Weightless' / 5 September 2012

five members of the cast of In Water I'm Weightless face the audience on stage against a purple-lit background

Nick Phillips, Sophie Stone, David Toole, Mat Fraser and Karina Jones star in Kaite O'Reilly's Unlimited commission 'In Water I'm Weightless'

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Ok. Let’s get the ‘I met a famous person’ moment out of the way.  Nicola Miles Wildin (who played Miranda in the Paralympic Opening Ceremony), sitting to my left during the first performance of ‘In Water I’m Weightless’ at this years Unlimited Festival 2012 at the Southbank Arts Complex. 

However there are disadvantages to being this close to a famous person.  Nicola graciously received (or was subjected to depending on your point of view) an endless stream of air kisses and bear bugs guaranteed to blow away those of us unfortunate enough to be sitting in the first row or threatened to flatten Nicola’s tiny frame and the audience members behind her.

Although this enormous display of affection for Nicola (or was it Miranda?) within the auditorium seemed hedonistic it did provide a useful dramatic prelude to the performance onstage.  Over the course of an hour and half Nick Phillips, Sophie Stone, David Toole, Mat Fraser and Karina Jones recount six different accounts of disability and of being a disabled person using dramatic monologue, dance, movement, video and music. 

Given the experimental approach adopted by the writer Kaite O’Reilly all six stories are fragmented.   Sophie Stone connects and disconnects multiple experiences related to an unnamed woman before and after receiving a cochlear implant.

Sophie juggles playing the part of a deaf person adjusting to loud noises, adopting the personae of unnamed woman struggling to come to terms with the changes in her girlfriend whilst occasionally acting as a BSL interpreter.  

The subversion of the linear progression of the Sophie’s narrative may sound chaotic – but for me it gave the story a sense of emotional realism and impact that would be lacking in the worthy but boring story-line of ‘Young brave deaf woman receives ground-breaking surgery to restore hearing.’ 

Sadly the production of ‘In Water I’m Weightless’ has now finished at the Unlimited Festival. But if this should go on tour (judging by the packed house on the night I went there should be sufficient demand) do go and see this play. Just be prepared for as much emotional drama offstage as well onstage but without Miranda, cum Nicola.