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Persians – Kaite O’Reilly


ISBN 978-1-911048-38-1
Pub. date: 29th July 2019
216mm x 140mm 116pp PB B&W inners

£10.99 (includes p&p)




In her version of Europe’s oldest dramatic poem, a requiem to a nation’s dead in a reckless, fruitless war, Kaite O’Reilly chooses the iambic drumbeat of English blank verse, and a long-lined lyricism that befits an epic lament. The language is modern, the word-music timeless, the rhythms ring with echoes of Elizabethan drama. In this powerful translation, the three voices of the Chorus tell the tragic story in a breathless song of mourning that insists on being heard.

Gillian Clarke

Persians is a beautifully poetic version of Aeschylus’ tragic play. Kaite O’Reilly’s masterly retelling of this 2,500 year old story focuses on how war destroys people’s identity and her use of language is contemporary but never loses any of the historical context.

The Poetry Society

This verse play is entertainment, challenge and a lie detector.

Judges of the Ted Hughes Award



Kaite O’Reilly’s powerful, emotionally charged text…. stands squarely on its own as a notable work of poetry…. There is no Henry IV rallying his troops, no deposed king in search of his horse, no heroism on the battlefield. Instead we have something more resonant; a reflective mediation on war’s aftermath; a dramatic study of loss, grief and defeat, voiced by a sorrowful chorus….Under the weight of grief, language itself breaks down into incoherent keening…. A haunting tragedy and a salutary reminder that all empires must eventually end, it is hardly surprising that Persians continues to resonate across the centuries. O’Reilly’s translation, written as it was when American troops were withdrawing from Iraq, anticipates the fall of the empire of our age; that of America (and by association, of Western hegemony). Written and performed during ‘a time of terror’, O’Reilly has overlaid Aeschylus’ timeless tragedy with a distinctively contemporary howl of pain.
New Welsh Review 
Liz Jones. NWR issue r31. Full review:



Kaite O’Reilly’s fine new version is spare, flinty and eloquent… extraordinary, one of the most imaginative, powerful and haunting theatrical events of the year.

The Telegraph

This is a theatrical experience like no other… chilling, terrifying and timelessly resonant evocation of the rending grief, fury, and devastation of war… O’Reilly’s version is drenched in bloody poetry… Unique and unforgettable.

The Times

Overwhelming… superb.

The Guardian

  About Kaite O’Reilly

Kaite O’Reilly is shortlisted for the GLADSTONE’S LIBRARY prestigious Writer in Residence Award 202, on the strength of Persians.
She is a multi award-winning writer and dramaturg whose body of work includes poetry, prose, radio drama, screen and theatre.
Other books by Kaite O’Reilly Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors (Oberon) The ‘d’ Monologues (Oberon) Woman of Flowers (Aurora Metro) Henhouse (Oberon) peeling (faber & faber) peeling in Graeae Plays 1: Redefining Disability (Aurora Metro) Editor of FACE ON: Disability Arts in Ireland and Beyond (ADI/Create) The start of the Introduction to the Verse-Drama Persians:
Persians by Aeschylus is the oldest extant verse drama in the Western canon. First presented at Athens’ City Dionysia Festival in 472 BCE, it recounts the Persian response to military defeat at the Battle of Salamis in 480 BCE. Aeschylus: poet, philosopher, soldier-playwright, anti- warmonger, humanist. He chose to write about an astonishing, almost miraculous event, a David and Goliath of its day: the spectacular and relatively recent defeat of the marauding Persian Imperial force by the people of Athens. Aeschylus was an Athenian. He could have written a swaggering tale of victory, of the battle- prowess Greeks and their cunning and sacrifice to protect this early, emerging experiment in (a form of) democracy. He could have written a xenophobic pageant of blood-lust and warriors, filled with self-congratulatory jingoism and gloating over the dead. Instead – in my reading at least – he chose to write a powerful anti-war verse drama which painfully depicts the waste and agonies of conflict – what Wilfred Owen, another soldier-poet, called ‘the pity of war’ – written with fire and dignity from the point of view of the defeated. This perspective drew me to the text. For some years in the mid-1990’s fellow dramatist Christina Katic and I volunteered for Suncokret, a nonpartisan grassroots humanitarian relief aid organisation led by people displaced by war in former Yugoslavia. We worked in frontline towns during the war and through the post war reconstruction. I started the first of my anti-war plays, YARD, when under missile attack in a makeshift shelter in an orphanage in the Krajina in 1995. In a lull in the shelling the next morning, Chris and I were evacuated out of Karlovac during what became known as Operation Storm, the largest European land battle since the Second World War. Although my experience of conflict was slight, it impacted profoundly on my world- view, politics, and the material I wanted to write. In 2002 I premiered my second anti-war piece, peeling. Years later John E McGrath, then artistic director of National Theatre Wales, approached me about writing a new version of Persians for the company’s inaugural year. Apart from long being an admirer of Aeschylus and, indeed, the production’s director, Mike Pearson, I was keen for Persians to be the final part of my anti-war trilogy.
Kaite O’Reilly. 2019



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