Australia-born, Glasgow based dance artist Penny Chivas tours Burnt Out, her intimate but impactful personal experience of the devastating 2003 Canberra bushfires around Scotland on this 2023 tour.
In 2019 Chivas found a paper written by her environmental biochemist father in the late 1970s. The paper predicted future catastrophic environmental change if we continued on the fossil fuel path we were on. These warnings though clearly given by Chivas and a legion of other environmentalists are almost entirely ignored, bringing us to the critical juncture we are now at. This personal find provided the catalyst for Burnt Out.
Starting in silence, clad in a white boiler suit, Chivas paces around the stage picking up matches strewn on the ground, a gentle soundtrack can be discerned in the background, twittering birds, running water. She then addresses the audience to explain the above.
Chivas continues, circling the two spotlights cast on the floor, chanting the years and locations of notable bushfires. We are also treated to renditions of two Australian classic tunes: I Still Call Australia Home and The Road to Gundagai. The pace builds as does the tension, Chivas then smears herself with black soot from the solitary piece of coal that has been front stage throughout as the piece reaches its climax.
Chivas has chosen an interesting and innovative way to present this serious subject, there is a mix of spoken word, movement, song and soundtrack. However, the movement sequences are very simplistic and repetitive and don’t convey the hard felt, powerful emotions of the subject matter. One can’t help feel that a more adventurous lighting design and the use of a greater colour palette may have forced the message more.
Intriguing, but it could be so much more.
Image: Brian Hartley