I like that feeling. In the pit of your stomach. After you’ve jumped off something. Not just off a chair, or even a wall. Off something too high. Something so high you’re gonna hurt yourself. Unless you hit water.
Saturday, 31 December 2011
I like that feeling. In the pit of your stomach. After you’ve jumped off something. Not just off a chair, or even a wall. Off something too high. Something so high you’re gonna hurt yourself. Unless you hit water.
Friday, 16 December 2011
When I was six, I got a Bionic Man action man for Christmas. I remember that I knew that that was what it was from the size and shape of the box, when it was still wrapped under the tree. I suspect I was very familiar with the dimensions of its packaging from coveting it in toyshops.
Tuesday, 29 November 2011
Sited in the "old back-to-back terraced house", also used as a story telling space in the Museum, there were a steady stream of visitors throughout the six hours, some in specially to see the Compass events, some just in to look around the museum.
It got pretty busy mid-afternoon, but I think I kept track of all the ideas and stories exchanged:
I swapped "SUNDAY WAS ALWAYS A GOOD DAY"
for SUNDAY, SEVENTH DAY OR FIRST DAY
I swapped A 6B PENCIL
for A CUP OF TEA
I swapped A CUP OF TEA
for CHILD BIRTH & ROONEY
and I swapped CHILD BIRTH & ROONEY
for MARMALADE PIZZA
I swapped A 94 YEAR OLD SMOKER
for A SMOKING RUNNER
I swapped THE HOUSING BENEFIT CLAIM SYSTEM
for BANKERS WANKERS
I swapped TRACING PAPER
for I LIVE IN YOUR HOUSE
I swapped THINGS STICKING UP OUT OF WATER
for THE HEPWORTH SHOULD BE EMPTIED ONCE A YEAR & OPENED TO VISITORS
I swapped TICK-BOXES FOR SCOTTISH & WELSH
for JOURNEY TO JAPAN
I swapped CLIPBOARDERS
for THE GIANT'S CHAIR
and I swapped THE GIANT'S CHAIR
for PIANO IN THE PARK
I swapped A GOING-BACK-TO-THE-WOMB PILL
for GUINEA PIG DUST
I swapped 23 POSTCARDS, FROM AMERICA, FROM MY DAD
for THE HORRIBLE DREAM.
I swapped IF IN DOUBT, TAKE IT OUT, IF YOU CAN'T WIN, KEEP IT IN
for JUGGLING IN JANUARY
I got a drawing of a STOLEN BUGATTI
I swapped EMPTY BENCHES
for THE SUNYATĀ STONE
I swapped BURNING THE TOAST
I swapped DEAD JELLY FISH
and I swapped THE DEAD CAT
for THE LUCKY SUNFLOWER
I swapped AIR CRASH INVESTIGATION
I swapped THREE PINTS OF GUINNESS
I swapped AN ESCAPED LUNATIC IN CANNOCK CHASE
for COB WALL
I swapped THE INSIDE OF A SAXOPHONE
for THE SIMPLEST ANSWER
I swapped "TAKE IT AWAY, BOYS"
I swapped THE VOYAGER SPACECRAFT
I swapped SPEECH BALLOONS IN PARTICULAR, COMIC BOOKS IN GENERAL
I swapped 300 CAMERAS A DAY
and I swapped THE SANDMAN
for DINOSAUR WEE
I swapped 36 DAYS LOOKING FOR STUFF IN THE FRIDGE
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Early last year I was invited to speak at a Cafe Scientifique event called Sing to Me Muse - an event exploring inspiration and asking the old question, where do ideas come from? There was a great panel of speakers, and we were asked to give a short presentation and run a workshop activity. Drawn back to our story-exchanging work, I came up with something that combined the two - a way of swapping ideas that had inspired me with things that had inspired the participants.
It seemed to go well, and in Edinburgh it grew into a four-artist plus host, durational event at the brilliant Forest Fringe. What really struck me was that the really simple format worked as as a chat in a cafe and as a team performance in a festival. This year the format has shifted for a couple of other incarnations, running in the breaks of TEDxYork - bookended by mini TED talks, and slipping back into Forest Fringe for the Edgelands flash-conference in August.
Of all the story-exchanging projects we've done, Inspiration Exchange is the most direct, from the descriptive title to the mechanism of performance. It strikes me that in these interactive pieces, that I think of partly as 'conversation generators', the key is to find a clear mechanism, a simple rule, that allows the conversation to happen.
I'm excited that this weekend, as part of Compass Festival of Live Art, I'll be running a six hour Inspiration Exchange in Leeds City Museum. As well as festival and symposium delegates, I hoping there will be an audience who just find me, tucked away in the 'back-to-back terraced house', and who might be interested to stay for a chat.
Monday, 21 November 2011
The programme at Bloc is a changing series of video installations:
Opening night, with bar: Friday 25th November, 6-8pm
plus Saturday & Sunday 26th & 27th, 12-6pm
by Lauren Stanley & Third Angel
Film-maker Lauren Stanley was intern on the rehearsal process for What I Heard About The World last year: researcher, documenter, tech assistant plus video artist. She made several pieces in response to the process, including this piece, capturing the moment just before the doors open before a performance and using Chris Thorpe's opening song. For Time & Space we're presenting Floors, a response to the atmosphere of the rehearsal room, rather than the activity in it. Lauren writes:
Floors was born from a moment of daydreaming. Following the shadows that Alex, Chris and Jorge made as they paced around on the shiny rehearsal room floor, I noticed the patterns and relationships that were forming in that section of What I Heard About the World were reflected by the floor. They moved around each other, but they stood alone and told their stories separately. The floor was a map of the world, but that meant something slightly different to each of them.Monday 28th & Tuesday 29th, 12 - 6pm
Even a map of the world has a point of view, a reflection of the makers’ location, politics and outlook. Floors has come to represent my map, what I really have heard about the world. Many fragments, tones and single beams of light, all linked to the rest but working separately. Each can easily be lost but all affect the result. And it will probably look slightly different to you.
THE KAROSHI FILMS
Karoshi, a research process taking its name from a Japanese word meaning "death from overwork", fed into a number of Third Angel projects, from Hurrysickness to Presumption. For Time & Space we are gathering together the video pieces it inspired or fed into:
Realtime A man, waiting, in a waiting room, wants to know if you know just how long a minute is?
Alone Together A documentary response to the 50 performer intervention Standing Alone, Standing Together.
Technology A man tries to understand how technology works, how light-clocks work, how a mug works, and explain it to you.
A Perfect Circle A woman performs a ritual of travelling and returning, and tries to describe life on planet earth, as witnessed by the images on the Voyager spacecraft.
Wednesday 30th November, 12 - 6pm
THE TRAVELS FILMS
Christopher Hall & Alexander Kelly
A series of highly manipulated video pieces, originally made in response to Third Angel's Pleasant Land travels, exploring travel - by vehicle, and by foot, long distance and local - across the UK.
We round the microfestival off at The Rutland Arms at 8pm, Thursday 1st December, with the return of PROJECTOR, our curated short film night, featuring The Very Hard Film Quiz:
Tuesday, 18 October 2011
We learn from doing, from making work. From a desire to make something new, something the audience has not seen or experienced before, something none of us would have made on our own. We challenge ourselves, to have to learn new things about making work each time – about making that particular piece of work. Setting ourselves new problems to solve. And as one project nears fruition there will always be two or three more developing – sometimes born out of the current project, often a response to, or a reaction against, it. Let's do something different this time. Sometimes we will want to develop an idea, continue down a path of exploration. But usually there will be a project coming up where the unspoken intention is to not be able to use the lessons learned so far. To get ourselves in to new trouble.
I've got a short piece in the latest edition of the Journal of Dance and Performance Training. It's a response to the question "What is the Cost of Training?" My bit is in there with some really interesting responses from Dick McCaw, Charlotte Vincent, Jodean Sumner, Konstantinos Thomaides, Marie-Gabrielle Rotie and Peter Petralia.
You can download it here, but given that it is quite expensive for an individual, it's worth checking if your library already subscribes to the print or online edition. And if they don't you, can click the recommend button and see if they'll subscribe for you.
Sunday, 25 September 2011
Tuesday, 20 September 2011
UPDATE: More on the actual journey in the next entry.
Monday, 5 September 2011
The first couple of hours are the least like performance. The quietest. The most like the devising-room game or task from which the show is born. The most like the three (or now four) of us playing the game by ourselves, with the audience dropping in to see how we're doing.
Mornings are more like a working exhibit for people to interact with. I enjoy the atmosphere of this: the phase where we are still finding our rhythm, getting a handle on the acoustics and layout of the space. We're slowest in these early hours, despite the fact that the smaller number of visitors means we actually have more control over the work-rate. We are working the whole time, we just get through less countries than the 17 or 18 an hour we need to. I'm still getting my drawing-fingers loosened up, Chris is still looking to find his two-word-story-title punning-mojo, Jorge still getting into the groove of the randomised-country-selection-system, and how much he should control the pace. There's more discussion, more digression, more discarded drawings.
It's strange to think of it as 'performance' or 'show' during the morning. It's pre-matinee; pre-lunch. Often, when the audience speak to us in the morning, it is individually, telling just one of us a story - at the drawing table, or across the book, or taking Chris aside by the map - rather than telling the whole room, from their seat.
Although we ran early versions of Story Map for three- and six-hour performances, now we know we can just about get through the whole world in 12 hours, that's the timeframe that interests us. That's what gives us morning starts, and I like the different feel the piece has as we progress through the day.
Lunch time, of course, is when it gets busy. Audience members have food and drink with them. We do, too, going cold behind us. We stop thinking about the time, just keeping the cycle of the piece going. When it gets busy we feel the pressure to entertain, to play to the room more, but we enjoy the shift into doing the task for/with the audience. With the people in the room. And we like, of course, the fact that there are more people to tell us stories.
After lunch people drift away, back to work, out to the shops, back home. By half-past two, three o'clock, it's much quieter. We notice the time again. Have a quick break. Get coffee, have a tidy round after the lunchtime rush.
In the afternoon we're more likely to notice people again as they arrive, welcome them. Families. Kids. We have to think more about the telling of some of the stories, avoiding certain details, making the darker material we have gathered into something more like fairystories. Chris is able to find a role for kids in the stories, or a connection with their own experience.
We pass halfway late in the afternoon, and do our first full count, invariably finding that at the halfway point (time) we are not halfway through (countries). We work out the new hourly rate required for the rest of the day. Someone works out how many minutes per country we have. The dilemma is that we don't just want to charge through, ticking-off countries, the point is to gather, and tell, stories. But we (well, certainly I) do want to complete the task, too. (About) 200 countries in 12 hours. So our concentration does shift; we get quicker at moving on to the next country, we keep the momentum going, and the conversation focussed on the stories of replicas and substitutes that we are seeking.
Tea time. More people come and go. More people dropping in after work. There's a change in the feel of the audience, too. They seem happier to sit and watch, now, only talking when they are certain they have a story to contribute. Perhaps because this is the more normal time for "watching a show", but in early evening, they seem more traditionally "audience"-like.
With two hours to go, the numbers start to build. People who were with us earlier in the day come back. They want to know what they've missed. We get more requests for stories, more stories offered for the countries that are still unclaimed. The show itself is busier now, more theatrical. There's pressure on Chris to tell more stories, whilst Jorge starts to drive us faster, taking over and moving us on. I start to get a backlog of drawings to do. We feel the need here to share/gather stories from the biggest audience, whilst also feeling the pressure to hit the target: we have a very clear minutes/country rate to achieve worked out by now.
And then in the last half an hour we find we have all the time we need. We can slow down. I start to worry that we won't fill the last twenty minutes. We're able to take more story requests. We know the last five countries that we have to do, laid out on Jorge's table, and whether we already have stories about them to share. I enjoy the serendipity of this, how the last country always seems appropriate, somehow.
We name the last name: conventional longform, conventional shortform, local longform, local shortform. We place it on the map. We solicit, or tell, a story. We name the last story. Two words. We illustrate the story and stand the last drawing on the map. Sometimes, sometimes we have a couple of minutes to spare.
Naturally I enjoy the fact that it doesn't end here. People gather round the map, ask what a particular drawing means, which title it relates to; they tell us more stories, ask what will happen to the map.
Photographs here are of Story Map at Hull Truck Theatre on 1 September 2011 as part of Freedom Festival, by Hannah Nicklin. More photos (along with videos and audioboos of some of the stories) are up at whatiheardabouttheworld.co.uk, which Hannah set up, and on her Flickr pages.
Wednesday, 31 August 2011
What I Heard About The World and its sister project Story Map are both back out on the road this autumn. We are translating the English and Portuguese version of What I Heard About The World, that tours in Portugal, back in to English this month, and previewing this new version in Leeds on 5 and 6 October, before a more extensive UK tour at the start of next year. We'll also be presenting the dual language version in Porto in November, too.
But this week we re-launch the research for the project with Story Map, running from 10am - 10pm on Thursday 1 September, in the upstairs foyer of Hull Truck Theatre. As ever we'll be mapping the world from memory, placing post-it note countries on the map, deferring to the CIA as to what actually constitutes a country, and collecting stories of fakes, replicas, substitutions and stand-ins. The stories we collect are pinned with a title and an icon, and then re-shared throughout the performance. If you're in Hull, pop in at any time, choose a story or help us fill in one of the gaps by sharing a story with us. Stay for as long or short a time as you wish - it's free.
Tuesday, 23 August 2011
Some nice photos of the Edgelands event at Forest Fringe by co-curator Hannah Nicklin up on her Flickr stream. Include pictures of our Inspiration Exchange and the Pills For Modern Living installation along with all the other great stuff that happened...
Sunday, 7 August 2011
We'll be showing our preview of tomorrow's medicine cabinet, the light-box installation Pills For Modern Living with the brilliant Forest Fringe, around the Edgelands event (co-curated by artist, activist, tech-enthusiast and Third Angel board-member, Hannah Nicklin) on 21 August, at which I'll also be running an Inspiration Exchange from 4.30pm. Come along on the 21st and swap something that has inspired you for something that has inspired me.
Earlier this year I was lucky enough to mentor The Other Way Works' lovely and intimate Avon Calling. It's on in Edinburgh for just three shows: 23, 24 & 25 August 2011, 7pm (75 mins). There are only 10 places available for each show. It's just £10 (pay in cash on the door) and that includes a glass of fizz! To book your place at the party email Ric Watts on ric [@] ricwatts.com and he'll let you know the secret home location near the Pleasance.
Also, Third Angel artists are showing work in Edinburgh:
Lucy Ellinson is Do-er in Residence at Forest Fringe, making and showing intimate new pieces each day, from 15 - 27 August. Lucy's curated series of One Minute Manifestos were brilliant last year, so I'm excited to see what she does this year. Lucy will be performing in Metis Arts' 3rd Ring Out from 18 - 21st, though the show is on for a full two weeks. More details here. And she'll also be previewing a new piece, Where We Meet, with Chris Goode, which sounds fantastic - more details here.
Chris Thorpe is already up and running in Edinburgh with The Oh Fuck Moment, which he has devised and written with Hannah Jane Walker. It's on as part of the great looking programme at Remarkable Arts, and I'm really looking forward to seeing it later this month.
Gillian Lees is in Edinburgh with Proto-type Theater's Third Person: Bonnie & Clyde Redux. Their last two shows were really lovely, and again, I'm looking forward to checking this new(er) piece out. You'll find them at Gryphon Venues from 22 - 27 August, as part of the British Council Edinburgh Showcase.
Our good friends Action Hero, who we have mentored, off and on, over the last few years, are also part of both the British Council Showcase and Forest Fringe with Watch Me Fall. It's a brave and thrilling piece about stunt men and macho culture, in which Gemma probably performs the most impressive feats. Go see 'em.
And last but not least, James Harrison will be running tech-support for Forest Fringe, notably for Edgelands and Action Hero. Do say hello if you see him. I owe him a bottle of Malbec.
Sunday, 31 July 2011
Thanks to Marcus Romer and the Pilot Theatre team for taking such care in getting them up online. The whole day was full of inspirational speakers, and I can really recommend checking all the talks out on the TEDxYork YouTube playlist.
Thursday, 21 July 2011
Going through images from Words & Pictures this evening, I came across this, a scan of an early pencil drawing of how Songmap might work, using the Arab Strap song The First Big Weekend. It's obviously more detailed than the drawing I'm able to do in the performance, when I only have the length of the song to draw the song. It's reminded me that I want to get back to doing more drawing with pencil.
There's more on how the project developed, in this earlier post.
Tuesday, 12 July 2011
First off, here's a [slightly longer] version of what I said about the phoneboxes.
I'm inspired by telephone boxes. Now I know that 'inspired' might seem like a strong word when it comes to something as everyday as phoneboxes, but they intrigue me. They make me feel, well, a bit excited, when I come across one.
And it started here.
0114 270 0008
0207 278 5424
0114 236 0387
0114 236 1184
0114 236 6550
BOTTLES OF MARBLES for
A BOX OF MARBLES
VOYAGER 2 for
PICTURES OF EARTH - WATCHING EARTH FROM THE SPACE STATION
MY GRANDAD SITTING LOOKING AT THE SEA for
"CAN'T GET USED TO LOSING YOU" BY THE BEAT
A SWIMMING POOL AT NIGHT
A VENN DIAGRAM OF ALL MY FRIENDS
NEVER TOO OLD TO LEARN
THREE PINTS OF GUINNESS
"DON'T ACT POSITIVE FOR MY SAKE, BE POSITIVE FOR YOUR OWN SAKE."
AIR CRASH INVESTIGATION
THE MISSING RUG
COMIC BOOKS, INEVITABLY
I'VE GOT SOME PIES
Thanks to everyone who came to hang out in the Inspiration Pod, you were brilliant.
Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Three years ago I wrote a short piece for the Sheffield Telegraph about the importance to us of the Psalter Lane campus, as it closed down and the provision housed there moved into the city centre.
I still sometimes pass the old campus on my walk to work, so a year later, the proposed redevelopment having fallen through, I posted this.
Last summer, the demolition had begun, and so I posted photos of that.
After the demolition was finished, the old library building stood solitary in the newly levelled grounds. Part of me thought it was a shame that that situation hadn't fallen within the "yearly update" rules I had apparently set myself.
So, almost a year later, it is with mixed feelings that I get to post these. I miss it now it's gone.
Thursday, 23 June 2011
We had a great time at Transform at West Yorkshire Playhouse. A really varied audience, including kids for the first time, who we got some nice stories from. One of my favourites was "Waterloo Bear". The girl who told us the story has a friend who is really keen on Paddington Bear - so keen in fact that he has eight Paddingtons. To differentiate them from each other, he has renamed seven of them, but always after a London train station. So one of the bears took his place on the map:
There's a really nice response to the piece, and other Transform work, by Clancy Walker, on the Culture Vultures blog, here.
There are more images of the piece over on our Flickr page, here.
Wednesday, 8 June 2011
Third Angel and mala voadora present
Story Map: What I Heard About The World
Transform Festival, West Yorkshire Playhouse
11am - 11pm, Saturday 11 June 2011
Twitter hashtags: #whatiheardabouttheworld #wyptransform
Devised and performed by Jorge Andrade, Alexander Kelly & Chris Thorpe in collaboration with José Capela & Rachael Walton
Story Map is a companion piece to the theatre show What I Heard About The World, co-produced by Sheffield Theatres and Teatro Maria Matos, in association with PAZZ Festival and Worldmapper.org.
Supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Third Angel is Regularly Funded by Arts Council England, Yorkshire.
Wednesday, 1 June 2011
People on Fire, People In Love from Third Angel on Vimeo.
To celebrate the return of What I Heard About The World this week, here is People on Fire, People in Love.
Our intern whilst we were making the show last year was film maker Lauren Stanley, and as well as working as researcher and rehearsal-documenter, Lauren also made a number of pieces of her own work in response to the show and the process.
This is the first of them - People on Fire, People in Love - a short film of the opening song of the show, written and sung by Chris Thorpe, filmed during the run at Sheffield Theatres in October 2010. I like the way Lauren actually dwells on the moments just before the audience come in.
Lauren's new blog is here: Organised Dust.
Monday, 23 May 2011
It's dissertation season, which always triggers a little rush of emails from students asking us for information, and some after work experience. We do our best to help students as much as possible, but we're a tiny, overworked company and despite our best intentions just can't meet everyone's requests by return. So, I thought I'd put together a 'how to get our attention' guide to asking us for something. In a spirit of friendly helpfulness, you understand, rather than a moan. Mostly.
1. Re: [blank]
No subject line and from an address my computer doesn't recognise? Chances are it'll go to my junk folder and never see the light of day. Game over. Go on, stick 'dissertation question' or 'Do you have any placement opportunities?' in there. Doesn't take a second.
2. Dear Sir/Madam/to whom it may concern
If you're genuinely keen to work with us or get that killer quote for your essay, you need to show us that. Addressing an email as if it's a circular from a stationery company just makes me sigh and delete. A quick rummage around our website will reveal the names of company members, so if you don't use a name it just looks lazy, and frankly a bit rude.
3. Here's my dissertation title. Please could you write it for me?
OK, that's probably a bit unfair, but only a bit. Very big or very general questions ("how do you make your work/how do you run a company?") that need 6000 words or more to answer will be filed in the 'to do' folder, and may never be seen again. When we're up to our eyes in tour booking or funding applications or in the rehearsal room (as we nearly always are) this is what we are able to respond to: succinct, focused questions that go beyond what's already available on our FAQ page (go to About and scroll right), an idea of context, and a ballpark deadline by which you need us to reply. Then if we can't help we can at least let you know in a timely fashion. Or help another way, with a 10 minute phone interview for instance.
4. I'll do anything
If it's work experience or a professional placement you're after, we need to know exactly what you're hoping for. We've all done placements or worked for free, and we know how depressing it can be when it doesn't live up to expectations, so you need to be just as clear about what you need to gain from your time with us, so we can be clear about what we can or can't help with. It's no good saying "I'll be happy to just sweep the stage", because a) I won't believe you and b) no stage needs that much sweeping. Yes, of course a willingness to do the small rubbish jobs is an admirable (essential?) quality - we do them ourselves every day - but tell us what you really want. Do you want to sit in on rehearsals? Learn how to market a show? See life on the road? This is important stuff, because we do have 'fallow' periods when there's nothing much to see at Third Angel HQ except a couple of us typing. And I'm guessing that's not what most people have in mind when they imagine a placement at a performance company.
5. I'm great in Panto
What's the last show you saw that left a big impression? What are you reading that excites you? If you've seen our work, tell us what you thought. If you haven't, tell us what has drawn you to us. If you have a CV full of workshops with contemporary artists and site-specific shows then that clearly demonstrates your interest in our kind of work. If your CV is more panto and Shakespeare, you'll need to tell us more about why you've approached us (rather than the RSC), otherwise it looks like you've just fired off an email to everyone under 'theatre' on yell.com.
6. And finally
The little things count. If there are five people after a placement, the one who has sent a well-written, enthusiastic email that's been proofread, spell-checked and shows they've done their homework on the company, automatically goes to the top of my 'reply to' list. If five people are trying to get information to feed into an essay at the same time, the one who demonstrates some knowledge of our work, and passion for their subject, will be up there too.
All of which is a very long way of saying "do your research and check your grammar". But it works. Really. And demonstrating initiative goes even further. Consider the gauntlet thrown...
First person to spot a typo gets a pack of Pills for Modern Living postcards.
Monday, 16 May 2011
There's a longer post to be written - soon I hope - about the mentoring work we've been doing with other artists and companies recently. But this isn't that post. This is more like an additional programme note to Tea is an Evening Meal, by Faye Draper, and me, currently touring as a collaboration between Northern Stage and Third Angel.
If you've seen any of a particular strand of Third Angel's work over the years, or if you've been to a workshop we've run, you will have detected a passing interest with furniture. That furniture might be domestic (it often is) or might be street furniture, and it speaks of a fascination with the spaces in which people meet, spend time, relate to each other.
Last year Sheffield-based, Lancashire-born artist Faye Draper was commissioned to create a piece of work as one of forty 'conversations about Northerness' to celebrate Northern Stage's fortieth birthday. The commission included money for "a mentor", and Faye approached me; when she told me the idea, I immediately understood why.
A couple of years ago I ran a three day workshop as part of the fantastic A:CT (Access: Contemporary Theatre) programme at Leeds Met Gallery & Studio Theatre. As a way of creating a trajectory from the Friday evening to the Sunday afternoon, I worked out a plan that all of the exercises would be linked to a table in some way. Faye was one of the participants on that workshop, and so thought that I might be interested in working with her on her show staged around a large dining table, with her, the performer, sitting in amongst the audience at the table.
She wanted to talk about the way her family meet at dining tables, and had already begun gathering stories from other people, too, with the aim of exploring regional differences and identity. It felt like rich territory to me and I was keen to be involved. Now, this might be one of those things that is much more interesting to those of us involved in making the work than anyone coming to see it, but it is significant to me that we deliberately avoided defining in advance what my role would be. We called it "mentor" for contract purposes, but Faye and I agreed we would just let it be quite organic.
The project had the money for me to be involved half-time, and Third Angel was able to support Faye with rehearsal space, allowing us to keep that half time flexible and responsive. Somedays I would be in quite a lot, watching material, suggesting things to tryout, giving feedback; other days I'd be in for coffee and a chat in the morning and then leave her to it. A combination of co-devisor, director, mentor and (of no-little significance when making a piece on your own) company.
Tea is an Evening Meal is undoubtedly Faye's show, and I am proud to have helped her to realise it. But I also think that if you know our work, then you'll find a flavour of Third Angel in there - or at least see why Faye felt we were the right company to approach to help her make this piece.
After a successful run at Northern Stage last year we came back to the piece a couple of months ago in preparation to tour it. It is often telling when you come to revive a piece after a break from it - in really basic terms the question is, "Is it as good as we remember it?" We were really pleased that we felt just as strongly about it, and I was really eager to see with an audience again. I always find it difficult re-rehearsing work that has been in front of an audience previously, it feels restricted to not have that live energy to play off. This was even more the case with Tea, as the audience of just thirteen sit in for various characters in the show.
But it was also really enjoyable to do a bit of fine tuning: to formalise the physical score ever so slightly, clarify the rules of "casting" the audience - or their chairs - in to the different stories, and to update Faye's perspective on the content almost a year later - a year in which she has had a baby, and so has a new relationship to meal times and, particularly, cups of tea. One day in Sheffield we were joined by Erica Whyman and Mark Calvert, Artistic Director and Creative Associate, respectively, of Northern Stage. It was a real joy to discuss the work with such invested and talented collaborators, although three directors to one performer was maybe a bit much. Directors. Yes, this time my role has been more clearly directorial, because that's what the project needed now.
Opening the show at ARC, Stockton, it was great to play to two such different audiences (Faye is usually doing two shows a day on the tour). The first was clearly a group of people who largely knew what to expect. The second was a mainly female audience who had come along because they liked the sound of it but had no idea what to expect. It's always useful to remember that no matter how welcoming a performance is, nor how gently the audience involvement presents itself, sitting at a table for a performance, where they can be seen by other people, and are talked "about" occasionally by the performer, is a massive step for some audience members. A few of them were obviously out of their comfort zone by some distance at the start of the show, but tea, biscuits and a very friendly show meant that they had a good time, and ended up participating more actively than they were "required" to by the end.
Faye is still collecting stories and opinions about tea (the drink) and tea (the meal) - feel free to join the discussion here. And a full list of tour dates is here.