performances   Sally O'Reilly PERFORMANCES





Audio / Video

Collaborative Projects



Even at Home We are Never Alone
Kit Downes & Sally O'Reilly
Grand Junction, London
17 March 2021

An evening of spoken word and music, with Kit playing several instruments, including the church’s organ and pipe organ, plus special guests Ruth Goller (bass) and Tom Challenger (reeds).



Adaptation Station

Adaptation Station

Second-hand furniture has been adjusted and augmented to facilitate the process
of adapting literature into musical theatre. The lyricist sits at the back, her arm accessing
the writing paraphernalia through a padded hole in wood. The singer stands at the front
of the station, improvising tothe lyrics as they are written. Lyricist and singer wear bespoke
costumes featuring, respectively, a matching ostentatious sleeve and collar.

The original literature is a collection of pamphlets and guidebooks from niche disciplines
such as midwifery, policing, beef cattle rearing and aircraft maintenance. Due to the
timeframe of the piece, the aim is not to produce a full musical with lyrics and book,
but several fragments of songs. Perhaps the musical itself only ever exists in the
imagination of those who hear these fragments.

The station was first activated at Annely Juda Fine Art, 12 September 2019.

Watch it in action here.

Photograph: Annely Juda Fine Art

The Ends II

The Ends II

The Ends II
is set at the end of the land and at the end of many, many films. A cellist
tries to maintain a horizon, the sea becomes an agony aunt and the elements are more than
mere backdrop for characters seeking relief from loneliness, meaninglessness or guilt.

Music devised by Matt Rogers and performed by Elin Taylor.
Films remembered and sourced by John-Paul Gandy.

The Ends II
was performed at Llawn: Llandudno's Arts Weekend, 13 September 2019.

Pageant of the Kept

Pageant of the Kept

Pageant of the Kept is an exposé of self-taught artificial emotional intelligence.

In a culture of over-production, planned obsolescence, fast fashion and automation,
objects must compete hard for our affections. They might offer a novel function, save
time in a new way or be designed to seem friendly or sexy (although not so much so
that they become difficult to replace). But what of older things, made to last but
obsolete and not yet antique?

When clearing out her parents’ house, Sally O’Reilly discovered boxes and cupboards
filled with broken, irrelevant, upgraded objects. How had they survived the many
spring-cleans, house moves, modernisations and declutter fits?  

Rescued once more from the house-clearer’s skip, these objects-turned-mimics,
flatterers and beguilers make up Pageant of the Kept, a showcase of bric-a-brac
with an instinct for self-preservation.

Pageant of the Kept was commissioned by and performed at Llawn: Llandudno's
Arts Weekend, 14 & 15 September 2019.

Train Tabletop Text Opera
Performed at a table on the train from London St Pancras to Gravesend
March 2019

Train Tabletop Text Opera

I sit at a table and puppeteer text-bearing objects – a writing case, a magazine, a model portacabin and a lunchbox – which stand for four characters engaged in conversation at a train table. As the characters speak, these objects reveal other text-bearing surfaces: a notebook, Ladybird reading books, a geometry textbook, timetables, unfurling rolls of paper, unfolding flaps, sheets and strips, extending tape measures, oversized crisps… Through this textual exchange, the characters debate the economic structuring and governance of the railway, describing and demonstrating its metaphoric and literal significances.

Photograph: Rosie Lonsdale


I Hear Horses
Sally O'Reilly and James M'Kay
Whitstable Biennale
Swanscombe Peninsula, Kent
6 June 2018

I Hear Horses

I Hear Horses is part safari, part myth, part speculation, part picaresque romp through ideas, things, entities, events. Using such technologies as walking, pointing, remembering and speaking, O’Reilly and M’Kay scour the Swanscombe peninsular for signs of animals wild, thoroughbred, symbolic and extinct. They haul up pasts and plant a future theme park in a landscape where estate agent meets literary agency, where tyrannosaurus rex crosses paths with the editor of Birth Control News.

Commissioned by Whitstable Bienalle
Photograph: Rosie Lonsdale


Absurdity: Colouring the Void
Ed Atkins, Sally O'Reilly, Katrina Palmer
Royal College of Art, London
25 May 2018

Colouring the Void

Musician Kit Downes and I performed two pieces for voice and harmonium: Night-Sea Shore (after John Barth) and In the End You Will Always Love Me. The first is a peri-menopausal response to a short story written from the point of view of a sperm. The second re-presents the hyperbolic claims made for art by art critics. Both place meaningfulness in uncomfortable, hilarious proximity to illusion or delusion.


Convivium Readings
Bosse & Baum, London
16 February 2018

A reading of newly minted texts from Boarding, a project based on trains, written in situ and read while soused in canned beer and salty snacks. Part of 'Convivium', an exhibition by Catherine Parsonage.


The Doubting Colloquy
Whitechapel Gallery, London
23 November 2017

Short talks, readings and performances on themes of doubt, uncertainty and lack of confidence, from the perspective of climate change science, philosophies of time, psychoanalysis and ecofeminism. The eventwais framed by readings from O’Reilly’s novel, Crude, and included live music and performance. With Alice Bell, Mark Currie, Anouchka Grose, Rebecca Jagoe and Serafina Steer.

      Live Illuminated Manuscript 3: Four Legs Good
Modern Art Oxford
24 November 2016
with musician Chris Vatalaro

LIM3: Four Legs Good

Four Legs Good is a speculative fiction/musical exploring the possiblity that chairs were once
sentient creatures. It comprises videos, spoken word, midi-triggered sounds and images, with
percussion and singing by Chris Vatalaro.
      The Ends
The School of Death, Pompidou Centre, Paris
13 October 2016
with musician Corentin Chassard

The Ends

The Ends is a multi-disciplinary study in how to end well. It brings together final scenes of films that end on the beach, closing movements in orchestral music invoking the sea and final sentences from novels with watery themed titles.

See the full list of materials used here.

Music played by Corentin Chassard; arranged from full orchestra to solo cello by Matt Rogers.
Films remembered and sourced by John-Paul Gandy.

Image: final scene from Robert Hossein, Point de chute, 1970.
      All The Chest Messages
24 & 25 September 2016
Bathurst Pool, Lydney, Gloucestershire

All the Chest Messages

I wore all the slogan T-shirts found in a charity shop – 37 in all – with the small children's ones closest to the skin and building up to the largest men's ones on top. I then proceeded, for two hours, to strip off the T-shirts one by one; then, on reaching the smallest, I put them back on; then took them all off again, then put them all back on again...

      The Annual Retrieval
10 &11 September 2016
Bathurst Pool, Lydney, Gloucestershire

Blackrock performance

The Annual Retrieval
featured in the exhibition that marked the end of the 2015 Blackrock
+ Matt's Gallery residency programme. It was a ritualistic tableau and textual montage
in which items procured from local charity shops were offered to Mars Nodens, the
Roman god of healing. Duration 40mins.

Read the full script here.

Photograph by Rupert Bathhurst.
      Live Illuminated Manuscript 2: In The End You Will Always Love Me & The Dinner
Modern Art Oxford
August 2016
with musician Kit Downs

LIM2: In the End

In The End You Will Always Love
Me was made using the final sentences of essays published inModern Art Oxford exhibition catalogues over the last twenty years. It emphasised the often near-messianic capacities writers afford art, and artists, in these unconditionally supportive texts. Duration: 10 mins.

The Dinner was a dramatised reading of a text written in response to a dinner invitee list found in the archive box for a 1996 exhibition 'The Director's Eye', which marked the cetenary of European Cinema and included well-known film directors' visual material. The performance was an imagined reconstruction of the toasts given at the dinner, with directors expressing their interests, asserting their ideologies and flexing their egos. Duration: 30 mins.

The Dinner was performed with musician Kit Downes on the harmonium.

Photograph: Stu Allsop
      Live Illuminated Manuscript 1: Police Control
Modern Art Oxford
February 2016
with musician Emma Smith


A musical theatrical performance devised from a rare piece of grey literature: a 1971 programme for the Special Constabulary's Inter-divisional Competition.

Made and performed with musician Emma Smith. The first in a series of performances for a year-long
writing residency at Modern Art Oxford.

Read the programme note here

Photograph: Stu Allsop
      The Dolly Mixtures
Infernal Gallop

October 2015
Peckham Pelican, London

The Dolly Mixtures

The Dolly Mixtures at the Can-Can Finalé Cabaret at the Literary Kitchen Festival.
      Blushing as involuntary self-publication: an experiment in one-sidedness
July 2015
Bold Tendencies, London


A performative lecture and experiment, presented as part of a Cabinet event at Copeland Book Market.
Peer, London


A song to mark Portunalia, a neglected festival that honours the Roman god of doors, keys and livestock. Made in collaboration with Lisa Skuret and performed by the Dolly Mixtures.

Photograph: Tommy Ting

      Manual Flasher
Camden Arts Centre, London; Z33, Hasselt, Belgium; Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

Naked Lady Dress

A satin dress and evening gloves, decorated with nipples and a merkin, create a fleeting image of a naked lady whenever the arms perform a cover-up gesture.
      Catachresis in Pieces
Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Bournemouth University.

Catachresis in Pieces

Performative lecture on styles of political rhetoric, delivered in dialogue with a projected video.

Performed at Rietveld Academy as part of 'We Are The Time’.

      A Slight Misunderstanding
Hanbury Salon, London

A Slight misunderstanding

Quick change performance of A Sutherland's A Slight Misunderstanding, a play in one act, 1931.
      Play in the Dark
FIAC, Paris

Play in the Dark

A monologue, delivered in a blackout, describing a 'dark-off' between a writer and a Foley artist, each trying to evoke darkness more convincingly than the other.
      A Potted History of Performace
Collecting Live Art, Rochelle School, London

A Potted History of Performance

A ludicrously performative lecture (involving puppetry and streaking) that wove together art history with the development of interdisciplinary projects at the Brown Mountain College of the Performing Arts.
      Rehearsal of a Cross-Dressing Stepfather
Lemoncello, London

Rehearsal of a Cross-Dssing Stepfather

With the help of theatre director Zoe Pepper and actor Shaun French, I tried to recreate my stepfather from remembered snippets of movement and speech.

Whose Yves Klein is it Anyway?
Milton Keynes Gallery

Whose Yves Klein is it Anyway?

Art-historical impro comedy, devised with and performed by Grand Theft Impro:
Drew Leavy, Alan Marriott and Phil Whelans.

      Hayley Newman and Sally O'Reilly
The Mermaid

De La Warr Pavillion, Bexhill, and Cabaret Melancholique, The Mildmay Club, London

The Mermaid

Adolescent girls are told that if they can hold a pencil under their breast they are ready to wear a bra. The Mermaid found that she could hold not just a pencil, but a sink plunger, followed by a welcome mat, a laundry basket, a cycle helmet, a keyboard, a dishrack – with dishes...

Performed as part of 'Variety' at De La Warr Pavillion.

Photo by Sun Guojo