Interview: Caitlin Evans on BURNOUT, ‘The climate crisis is a reality for them’

by Jim Keaveney

BURNOUT, written by Nicole Acquah who made the Women’s Playwriting Prize Shortlist in 2022 for SANKOFA, and devised by the company is a call to action for audiences to think about privilege, activism and climate justice. The play is presented by Shybairn, a theatre company that creates theatre for social change.

Directed by Caitlin Evans and starring Lekhani Chirwa and Chloe Wade as Amara and Bridgette, BURNOUT was created with climate activists across the UK and seeks to expose the burnout experienced by activists from marginalised communities alongside the burnout of our planet.

Ahead of opening at VAULT Festival we caught up with Evans to hear more about the play, its inspiration and what it’s like to bring the play to the festival.

Q&A with Caitlin Evans

What can you tell us about Burnout?

BURNOUT is a play about activism, from the perspective of people who are already living through the impact of flooding in Cumbria. The climate crisis is a reality for them –  not just a hypothetical future theory. It’s loud, fun, full of characters and even features karaoke!

What was the original inspiration for the show?

I went to a campaign meeting for a climate activism group and found the focus on singing songs about trees, finding an object that represents how you feel and general circle time vibe infuriating. It felt like a really inaccessible space that wasn’t reflecting the truth of the crisis already impacting people today. I spoke to a variety of activists who felt marginalized in the wider movement and found I wasn’t alone! The characters, Amara and Bridgette, developed from there. The idea of activists burning themselves out whilst the planet is burning too was a recurring theme I wanted to unpack more – so got writer Nicole Acquah on board to make a show!

What’s it like to be bringing the show to VAULT Festival?

So exciting! It’s great to be back at Vault after a few years off over the pandemic. Our last show TALK PROPA played at Vault Fest in 2020 and it was so much fun. It’s great to be part of a festival environment with other artists making political, experimental work. To be part of what is potentially the last ever weekend is a privilege.

How do you think audiences will react?

I hope they will have fun and get stuck in! There’s audience interaction throughout the show (in a gentle way don’t worry!) We unpack the labour of performance and ask ‘who is doing the work?’ in both activism and theatre through the show’s form. So we hope they’ll get stuck in and continue the conversation in the bar after.

How would you describe the show to someone considering buying a ticket?

A new play about activism, flooding, climate change and why bamboo toothbrushes aren’t going to save us!

BURNOUT plays VAULT Festival’s Cavern for three performance across 18 and 19 March, including a relaxed performance then touring Whitley Bay, Keswick, Newcastle and Reading