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Penny Chivas Dance Artist & Activist in BURNT OUT

BURNT OUT, a dance-theatre performance is touring Scotland. It was while in Orkney that The Orkney News took the opportunity to talk to creator Penny Chivas about her work and what motivates it.

a relaxed and smiling Penny Chivas

Originally from Australia, Penny Chivas is a Glasgow-based dance artist and activist. In Burnt Out, she draws on her own experience of the bush fires which devastated Australia . Growing up in Australia, the daughter of an environmental geochemist, she experienced the Canberra fires of 2003, the blacked skies over Melbourne during Black Saturday 2009, and during a visit in 2019, Black Summer.

I asked Penny what motivated her to encapsulate those experiences in a dance-theatre performance.

‘I had to do something’, she said. ‘This feeling of devastation and trauma…what do you do with that feeling?’

For Penny, that ‘something. that would ‘house her feelings’ she transferred into creative expression, eventually evolving into Burnt Out.

Burnt Out takes us on a journey and asks the question ‘why do we feel we are unable to acknowledge the changes around us even when surrounded by thick smoke?’ 

In the performance Penny’s experiences are contrasted with Australia’s reliance on coal – even using coal- powered electricity to “clean the air” during the fires. 

In May of this year the Australian Government, elected on a climate action ticket, approved a new coal mine. The Isaac River coal mine is expected to produce about 2.5 million tonnes of coal over five years. Australia is currently the fifth largest producer and the second largest exporter of coal and has the third largest reserves of coal in the world.

The Mineral Council of Australia uses the tagline ‘Coal: building Australia’s future’.

The 2019 Black Summer was an extended period of uncontrollable bushfires which earned the term ‘mega fire’.

Penny commented:

“When can we sit down, and reflect, and feel”

Penny was encouraged to include Orkney in the Burnt Out touring dates by Move Orkney and whilst here Penny held a community movement workshop. The performances of Burnt Out, suitable for 12+years, will be held:

  • Fri 8 Sep 7pm Stromness Town Hall, Orkney Tickets in advance through Eventbrite or on the door
  • Mon 11 Sep 7pm St Magnus Centre, Kirkwall, Orkney Tickets in advance through Eventbrite or on the door

Burnt Out has a valuable message for all of us at this critical time in our future on this planet.

Created and Performed by Penny Chivas, Music by Paul Michael Henry, Lighting by Great Snakes (David Bowes)

during the performance Penny Chivas with some soot on her face holds up a long taper
Image credit Brian Hartley

Funded by Creative Scotland’s Touring Fund for Theatre and Dance and supported by QL2 Dance (Australia)  

Other dates in Scotland:

Sat 16 Sep | 7.30pm Mareel, Shetland01595 745 500 | shetlandarts.org

Fri 29 Sep | 7pm (BSL interpreted)The Barn, Banchory 01330 825431 | thebarnarts.co.uk

Wed 4 Oct | 7.30pm  (BSL interpreted)Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling 01786 466 666 | macrobertartscentre.org

Thu 5 Oct | 6.30pm (BSL interpreted)The Byre Theatre, St Andrews 01334 475000 | byretheatre.com

Fri 6Oct | 7pm (BSL interpreted)Platform, Easterhouse 0141 276 9696 (opt 1) | platform-online.co.uk

Sat 14 Oct and Sun 15 Oct | 6pmThe Phoenix, Dumbarton FREE | Tickets in advance: https://forms.gle/6xjSsALweXtbZabM8 

Sat 28 Oct | 2pm Quarrymen’s Arts Centre, Creetown 01387 253 383 | quarrymensartscentre.co.uk

BURNT OUT is touring until Saturday 28 October. Each performance will be followed by a post-show discussion with a local environmental activist. In line with Chivas’ commitment to being ethically sustainable, the tour is aspiring to be done by public transport – train/bus and ferry travel and any car transportation, mileage will be tracked and recorded. 

CO2 newsletter and a lump of coal
Weaving spoken word, movement and a lump of coal, BURNT OUT takes us on a journey and asks the question ‘why do we feel we are unable to acknowledge the changes around us even when surrounded by thick smoke?’ Image credit Brian Hartley

Fiona Grahame

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