Collaboration Spotlight: Lucy Burnett and Kate and Oliviero Papi of OBRA theatre company

Dead-time / I am Talented (and Other Alternative Facts)


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‘Dead-time’ is the moment after an event before any system can record a further event. In their ongoing collaboration, poet Lucy Burnett and Kate and Oliviero Papi of OBRA theatre company, apply this term to the uncertainty of the contemporary political environment associated with Brexit, Donald Trump, the rise of populism, and notions of post-truth and alternative facts. Starting from a shared (yet varied) experience of the above, the three collaborators choose not to view this political moment as stasis, but instead as an abstracted state of potential, replete with the possibility for change. More specifically the piece of physical theatre / poetry currently being developed under the working title ‘I am Talented (& Other Alternative Facts) interrogates the fundamental rupture between language and intention (action, knowledge, thought) involved in post-truth politics through an improvisatory process of re-embodying language – to propose that what we do and say really do matter. Rather than seeking to persuade the audience of any particular point of view regarding contemporary politics, the work-in-progress views ‘truth’ as a meaning-making process. By placing language and movement in destabilised tension in the context of ‘post-truth’, ‘I am Talented’ both lays bare their dynamic relationship, and opens up space for new possibilities of meaning in a radical, participatory, performative account of politics in which we are all implicated – writer, director, performer and audience alike.

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The performance of ‘I am Talented’ for In the Open has stemmed from three intensive periods of experimental research and collaboration at Au Brana, OBRA’s theatre workshop in the south of France. During these sessions, poet Lucy Burnett, Director Kate Papi, and performer Oli Papi, have developed  a range of improvisatory methodologies for collaboratively creating a work of poetry in physical performance, which together ask: how do our actions and words make meaningful and dynamic cuts upon the world, in the process of becoming ‘other’ with it? (And how might performances such as this help us reconsider our own contribution to a changing world?) The performance will run on a half hourly loop: presenting two fragments of the resultant work-in-progress, as well as outlining the collaborative methodologies and processes involved, and providing opportunity for discussion and questions. Over the course of the following year, Lucy, Kate and Oli will continue the development of this piece, with the aim of achieving Arts Council funding for a performance tour in the autumn of 2018

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Lucy Burnett’s first collection of poetry, Leaf Graffiti, was published by Carcanet Press in 2013, and her second book, a hybrid novel exploring climate change called Through the Weather Glass was published by Knives Forks and Spoons in 2015. A second poetry collection with Carcanet called Tripping Over Clouds is forthcoming. During 2015 she developed and toured an interactive installation version of Through the Weather Glass around the UK, which included both video and photographic art. Born in Scotland, Lucy now lives in West Yorkshire and is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Leeds Beckett University. Prior to returning to academia and writing, Lucy worked as a campaigner for organisations such as Friends of the Earth.

British born Kate Papi is an actor, workshop facilitator, and co-director of the Au Brana Centre in Southern France. Following her studies, which included work with internationally acclaimed Teatr Piesn Kozla in Poland, she co-founded OBRA for whom she has directed Fragments, a bi-lingual stage adaptation of Roland Barthes’ The Lover’s Discourse and Ted Hughes’ Gaudete for an international cast. She has also guest directed at the Bristol Old Vic, South Bank University and is currently developing a series of short films entitled Ex-Situ in collaboration with VIDEOFEET in response to the changing architecture of the Occitanie Region.

Oliviero Papi is an Italian born, Australian theatre performer. He graduated from VCA drama school, Melbourne, in 1999 before performing throughout Australia, principally with the Sydney Theatre Company and the Bell Shakespeare Company. Since 2005 Oliviero has been the co-director of the Au Brana Centre, France and in 2006 co-founded OBRA Theatre. With OBRA he has devised and performed TransfixedFragments, adapted from Roland Barthes’ Lover’s Discourse, and in Ted Hughes’s Gaudete. Oliviero performs in VIDEOFEET’s new film installation project Thadows Loom and is part of the creative team on Ex-Situ. Oliviero also works as a member of The Awake Projects, an international theatre ensemble, with whom he performed Awake, and Song of Riots. Since transferring to Europe Oliviero has also toured and performed in Italy with Teatropersona and worked in collaboration with Poland’s Teatr Piesn Kozla.