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.



Collaboration Spotlight: Elizabeth-Jane Burnett & Rebecca Thomas

Field Notes / Field Study

Elizabeth-Jane Burnett and Rebecca Thomas

We propose an Art book which explores both narrative sequence and mapping. The book will include a fold-up map created from our time spent in, bordering, and away from, three fields in Devon. Our collaboration uses mapping as a practical starting point for articulating these fields, operating both metaphorically and visually, involving different stages of drawing, writing, performing and imagining. Two screen prints will also be produced for the book.

Fields in Ide

As well as using on-the-spot, site-specific writing and drawing, we are interested in how the project develops away from the site, to include an imagined and re-imagined landscape. A series of small paintings of Fields-dreaming, in anticipation of one of the fields will be produced to feature in the book, as well as Dream-writing in response to the same field.

Diagram of the Book

The fields we are “mapping” are located in the Devon village of Ide. They appear as “Drewshill 1, 2 and 3” on a sketch map drawn by the writer’s father, a historian, who discusses the etymological history of these fields as meaning “the fields of the Druid.” These ideas and fields are also being explored in Burnett’s A Dictionary of the Soil.

Surface and Depth

Thomas is also interested in drawing while walking in the field, constantly making marks whilst moving. Using oil pastels or other mediums she will record, physically and literally the movement of the body through space. She is interested in working with a writer, with a view to exploring the relationship between this physical mark making and language in the conventional sense of the word.

Collaboration Spotlight: David Walker-Barker & Dan Eltringham

The reservoir dam under construction c. 1900

The artist David Walker-Barker and poet Dan Eltringham are working together on a collaboration focused on the submerged reservoir landscapes of Midhope and Langsett, around 10 miles north west of Sheffield, in search of the illegible, erased and underground.

We are following traces of vanished ways of life, using archival photographs, old maps and the records of local rambling societies. The objects of our search so far are remnants of the drowned village of Langsett; the “Jossie Cabin”, an eighteenth-century shepherd’s hut that may have fallen victim to enclosure but was still visible in the 1930s; the Shepherd’s grave at Midhope Chapel; fragments from the eighteenth-century Midhope pottery works that was finally closed by the reservoir in the early twentieth century; and the ruined North America farmstead.

The shepherd's hut?
The shepherd’s hut?

Our first excursion to this landscape yielded more unknowns than sureties: in search of the shepherd’s hut on Stanny [Stony] Common, the rain and wind was so bad that not much could be made out. We don’t know if we found Jossie’s Cabin or not; a pile of stones was our the best bet, but one pile of stones looks very like another in poor visibility. We’ll have to go back.

North American farm
North America farm

The walks feed into the work we produce, but are discrete from that work: visual and verbal records of pedestrian excursions that seek not only to document the experience of the landscape as we have seen it and taken it in through the other senses, but also its histories and hidden communities, human and nonhuman.

The shepherd’s grave?

The work is also what we find, as well as what we (so far) have failed to locate. David’s artistic practice is centrally focused around collecting and the taxonomy of arrangement, in artist’s cabinets he builds himself to house his interests in minerals, fossils and relics of human community such as bottles and ceramics. Dan is working on a poetic text, R/S Res., that plays with the formal taxonomies and juxtapositions of David’s artist cabinets, as well as with mini-fields of open-form verse plotted across a page, allowing ‘R’ to speak with ‘S’, Resource with Surface and Resistance with Strata. The objects David finds mix time scales, from the vastly geological and prehistoric to seventeenth-, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century objects of common use.


The Midhope Pottery yielded some such daily records, in the form of plate-ware pulled from the mud around the ruined farmstead, and brought to the surface with the help of nonhuman excavators: fox holes throw up a lot of good stuff.

What we have so far are a lot of unknowns, losses, overwritings, and several strands of work-in-progress. We plan to return to Langsett in the Spring.