Each year arts organisation Metal invites a number of artists into residence. The artists spend time in the city undertaking research to inform new performances and art works. Working in the city, meeting people and exploring places, invariably ends up with the resulting art works being about Peterborough or involving local residents. This month sees Metal introduce performer, curator and producer Xavier de Sousa…
Can you tell us about your work?
My work explores personal and political heritage looking at belonging, nationality and migration. Through theatrical and durational work, I explore the contrasts between the live experience and the audience’s participation in the performance space.
What are you developing in Peterborough?
A new theatre show called REGNANT, which is a long show (six hours) that will be somewhere between a theatre play and a dinner party. It will involve residents of Peterborough who each have various degrees of privilege (or none) in the running of the city. The show is about privilege and power and the guests will be an integral part of it, developing the dialogue with myself and the audience live in the room.
What brought you to the city?
Peterborough is a city with a rich history of migration, relationships between various communities and a really diverse wealth of cultures. It is also a really welcoming town, one which has challenged the work and my own sense of belonging here. Whilst sometimes it can look quite like a politically divided town, there is a lot of love and heart to it!
Who have you been working with so far or who are you hoping to work with?
I am working with all sorts of people, currently the METAL team and the wonderful poet Judita Grubliene. All have been instrumental in my understanding of the town and its history, but also, they have introduced me to the area, and specific people who might end up being the guests in the show. It’s been a long process but enriching and challenging in equal measures, which is exactly what you want from a residency!
Have there been any interesting findings?
Yes. The fact that everyone I have been working with seems to understand Peterborough as a ‘city of villages’, both culturally and demographically, as well as geographically. It really has helped provide an understanding of how structures of power and communities work locally. Judita told me a quote that really marked me: ‘Homesickness will never go away because you miss your childhood, not necessarily your country’, which has made me think so much about nativism and how we understand our connections to places we deem to be ‘home’.
What do you hope to achieve with the work?
To build a show where all those involved (including the audience) can come together, get merry, make new friends and explore what the hell it means to be a community. On a more personal level, I want to explore the form of the shows I make, expand on it and experiment with it. I am interested in how we break barriers between the artists and the audiences in the performance space, how much control we give each other over the development of the narrative.