Artist Spotlight: Fran Olivares

Our latest Dysbiosis team spotlight is on Chilean performer, director, translator, tutor and theatremaker Fran Olivares. When Fran isn’t busy bringing thought-provoking theatre to life, she is also a proud mother to a 2-year-old who keeps her on her toes and gives her a whole new appreciation for the power of imagination and play!

Tell us about yourself and your creative practice.

I’m Fran, a theatre person from Chile, now based in SE London. My work spans directing, performing, translating, writing, and facilitating, all focused on themes around identity, marginality, and the female experience. Dysbiosis addresses the urgent and dreadful impacts of global warming and neo-capitalist exploitation. Personally, these issues are not abstract for me; they’re part of the reality currently affecting South America, and as a mother, the future of our planet weighs heavily on my mind.

I’m driven by the belief that making even a small difference in our corners of the world can lead to a brighter future. So, for me, my work is more than just putting on a show for entertainment; it’s also about using my body/voice as a tool for communication, a way to build community, and a platform to shine a light on the issues that matter.

What does ‘dysbiosis’ mean to you?

To me, ‘dysbiosis’ is about imbalance, and not just in nature, but in how we interact within our communities. It’s as if everything from the ecosystems to our social structures have fallen out of harmony because of the way we treat each other and our planet. 

Through the R&D we’ve all delved into the essence of nature from different perspectives – I, personally, focused on exploring everything from the sound of the forest to the strength of rocks, highlighting the interconnectedness of all things, living or not. 

Similarly, each of our researches are also interconnected. We talked about nature, water, plants, fungi, stones, humans, gender, culture, traditions, religions, languages, and social structures – all in a way that shows they’re all part of this big, complex world. And it’s clear that we’ve been taking more than we can give back, messing up this balance. 

So, ‘dysbiosis’ for me is not science; it’s real life, and it’s happening now. It’s a call to action. It’s about understanding our place in the world, respecting the balance of life, and doing something to make it better.

How does your heritage influence the way you view/value nature?

Growing up in the south of Chile, in the countryside of a small town called Panguipulli, nature was part of our daily life; it was a part of who we are… I grew up climbing trees, drinking from springwaters, playing with mud, going fishing in the canal with just an old Nescafe can as my reel, having hydrangea fights, and much later on, hiding in the bushes or up in the trees to make out; all these experiences deepened my bond with nature, and it’s a huge part of my life and how I see the world. Now, living in London, I carry all these memories with me. My heritage has taught me to value every tree, river, mountain, and stone as integral parts of our community, not just resources to be consumed or exploited.

Seeing the damage done by global warming and exploitation is hard. It’s not just about losing beautiful places; it’s about losing part of ourselves and our memories. This has made me really think, why do we do this? Why do you want to lose your history in exchange for becoming an “ignorant rich twat” with no memory?

I think it’s about respect and care – we’re not separate from nature but a part of it. We need to look after it like we would our own families because, in a way, the Earth is family too.

Were any aspects of the project new to you, and if so, what did you expect coming in? Were those expectations met?

Stepping into this project, quite a few bits were brand new to me. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The whole idea of blending theatre with these deep themes, like the environment, gender and neo-capitalism, was a fresh and exciting territory to create. I came in hoping to learn, to really dive deep into how we can use art to talk about the world around us, to meet other creatives, and to reinforce my interest in doing more cross-disciplinary collaborations.

And all those expectations were more than met. Working with everyone, sharing ideas, and seeing how passionate they were about making something meaningful was absolutely inspiring. It showed me there’s so much more to the theatre-making than I was actually hoping to tap into. So yeah, it’s been new and challenging, but absolutely worth it.

Can you recommend a book/theatre/music recommendation that relates to Dysbiosis’ themes?

There’s this electro Andean group called Matanza that I think can help a lot to create atmospheres and inspire us in the creation. Their music blends traditional South American rhythms with modern electronic beats, creating this incredible music that feels like it’s telling the story. It’s also atemporal/timeless.. and I really like it. 

And then there’s the work of Sebastián Calfuqueo, a Mapuche visual artist whose creations are profoundly impactful. Sebastián’s art dives deep into themes of identity, colonialism, the environment, and the intricate interplay between gender and nature, all from a Mapuche perspective. Their work challenges and redefines what these concepts mean in today’s world, offering a unique lens that explores the fluidity of gender as part of the broader conversation about our connection to the earth.

This photo and top photo credit: Hannah Davis

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