Friday 26 June 2009

Table Manners pictures

Some images from Table Manners, the project I made last month with Contemporary Performance Practice students at Leeds Metropolitan University. These photos are all by Sebastian Juszczyk (thanks Sebastian).

The show consists of a series of performer-audience member encounters over a table top, sometimes working on an individual level, sometimes with the performers all working together delivering the same material.

At the start there's an etiquette demonstration with paper cutlery and crockery:

Then the worktop becomes a drawing table:

And a place for conversation and story telling:

In the middle of the show there is a one-to-one origami lesson for each audience member:

And there are quieter moments of contemplation:

Each of the 20 audience members meets 13 of the 20 performers. So it was possible to come to see the show more than once, which a few people did, and see a very different version. I was making this piece in the middle of the making process of Homo Ludens, and there is a shared formal exploration here, in the dual layer of group performance/one-to-one performance experience.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Third Angel in Edinburgh, 25 - 28 August 2009

We've recently put our Edinburgh dates up on the news section of the website. After saying how exciting their programme looked last year, I'm very pleased to say we're going to be part of Forest Fringe this August.

That means we're not part of the official Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Forest Fringe is its own mini festival, and consequently doesn't need to stick to one week minimum runs. The programme changes daily, and the work is free to go and see - they just pass a bucket round at the end. It's a great line up of artists this year, which we are delighted to be a part of. There's more about Forest Fringe and their fund raising campaign (putting shows on for free is expensive) on their blog.

We'll be showing the revised and updated version of Class of '76 for two nights and a work in progress version of a new piece Words & Pictures... If you are on our e-list, please note the slightly earlier start time of these shows than was stated on the last mail out. (If you want to join the e-list you can do it here.)


25 - 28 August 2009 at 7pm. Free!
Forest Fringe
Bristo Hall (above The Forest Cafe)
3 Bristo Place, Edinburgh EH1 1EY

Words & Pictures

(a work in progress)
Tuesday 25, Wednesday 26 August at 19.00 (45 min)

A collection of short stories:
Chapters from the Unfinished Books of our Life Stories.
Texts to explain our obsessions and our passions.
Writings that try to understand why it is we are fascinated by those empty benches we see by the side of the road.
That try to remember what it felt like to stand on the highest diving board as a kid.
That try to explain why we hated that job.
Notes that try to understand games and songs.
Words to accompany pictures.
Readings to be heard in the dark.

There comes a time in your life by which point you should have written a book. If you were going to. Well, we’re at that time, but we just haven’t got round to it; we’ve been busy. Really busy. There’s a book’s worth of stuff there, but, well, there’s been too much else to do. But we do like the idea of a book tour. Touring, we’ve done a lot of that. So we’re cutting straight to that bit: The Book Tour. Words & Pictures is a book reading for a book that hasn’t been written yet, let alone published.

Words & Pictures is commissioned by the Off The Shelf Festival of Writing and Reading 2009, and Leeds Met Studio Theatre.

Class of '76

(an old favourite)
Thursday 27 and Friday 28 August at 19.00 (60 min)
"incredibly moving and beautiful" Yorkshire Post
"magical and beautiful" Total Theatre

Class of '76
was originally commissioned by Small Acts at the Millennium and Site Gallery, Sheffield.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Respecting the Grid

Perhaps it's just us, but we thought Katja painting 100 squares by hand (with assistance from Martina, in this video clip) was kinda beautiful...

Video by Rita.

Monday 22 June 2009

On the Moon

Who would have thought that a James May documentary could bring a tear to the eye? Apart from the annoyingly intrusive soundtrack, a really great programme last night, I thought.

For the record, from ongoing interest and particularly 9 Billion Miles From Home research, my top two book recommendations on this subject are Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell To Earth by Andrew Smith and Ascent by Jed Mercurio - the first reportage/documentary and the second fictional but inspired by real events. Both remarkably moving pieces of work. Smith's book was surely an inspiration behind, or an influence on, the movie In The Shadow of the Moon, which I can also thoroughly recommend.

Saturday 20 June 2009

Homo Ludens

Homo Ludens opens tonight at TiG7, Mannheim, under the guidance of Third Angel associate artist Lucy Ellinson, in collaboration of the whole of the team from TiG7. It's been an exciting, fun, challenging and sometimes moving process, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how the audience/players experience it. Full credits below.
Third Angel & TiG7 present
Devised and written by the company
Inspired by Letters Upon the Aesthetic Education of Man
by Friedrich Schiller

Performed by:
Rita Böhmer, Daniela Cohrs, Lucy Ellinson, Martina Heubel, Einhart Klucke, Martin Kornmeier, Jellena Lugert, Alexander O. Miller, Julia Rützel, Stefanie Rapp, Natascha Slominski

Games Waiters:
Tobias Grauheding, Tobias Hannemann, Christian Lidy, Pascal Wieandt, Nils Witte

Licht- und Tontechnik/Lighting and Sound: James Bogner
Bühnenbau/Set Construction: Hubertus Seelhorst
Malerei/Scene Painters: Katja Angerbauer & Stefan Schneider

Research texts by Chris Thorpe
Co-directed by Lucy Ellinson
Directed and designed by Alexander Kelly

Third Angel management: Hilary Foster
Third Angel Co-artistic Directors: Alexander Kelly & Rachael Walton
TiG7 Künstlerische Leitung / Creative Director: Maike Lex
TiG7 Organisation / Organisation: Christine Seikel

HOMO LUDENS is produced within /
wurde im Rahmen der Freien Theater Tage
SCHWINDELFREI 2009 produziert.
Kindly supported by / Mit freundlicher Unterstützung durch
John Deere & Sheffield Theatres

Das Theaterhaus TiG7 wird unterstützt vom
Kulturamt der Stadt Mannheim und dem Ministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst Baden-Württemberg

Third Angel is regularly funded by Arts Council England

Thursday 18 June 2009

Postcards From The Road - Mannheim

A note of caution to start, one of the images lower down this post is of the Schillertage 2009 publicity campaign - which some people may find quite strong, featuring, as it does, a very new born baby. Certainly the woman who stopped as I was taking a photo of it felt it was a bit too strong... or that it was weird that I was taking a photo of it, or both. But first, clocks.

The clocks at Frankfurt Airport railway station are all in sync - to the second. There are perhaps 8 along one platform, perfectly in time. Doesn't really tranlate to a photo of course.

We needed to borrow some furniture for Homo Ludens from NationalTheater Mannheim. When we made Stage An Execution for NationalTheater's Schillertage 2003 we got to explore their costume store (although we ended up making the costumes from paper) which was suitably impressive. We actually rehearsed Stage An Execution in this building, that also houses the furniture store, although we didn't come and explore that time. This floor is tables, cupboards and sofas (plus those two grandfather clocks). We needed chairs or stools, too: there's a whole separarate floor of those. They had to pretty much drag Lucy and I away before we started staging Presumption there and then.

Homo Ludens is a collaboration with the wonderful TiG7, which is both a company/producing house and receiving house. They are one of 5 independent, or free, theatres in Mannheim. The free theatres have their own strand of Schillertage, which is called Schwindelfrei. There's no direct translation into English - or no equivalent single word at least. It's a pun (kind of, I think), and it translates as 'freedom from the fear of heights'. And all of their print is vertigo inducing op-art, which you can get a taste of here.

The theme of the whole of Schillertage this year is the idea of play and the playful human. Whilst I was there the advertising campaign went up - some posters using the Schiller quote that 'man is only truly a man when he plays', and also these new-born baby posters.

I asked our collaborators from TiG7 if there is any ambiguity about the phrase 'Spiel starten' - could it mean 'start to play' - but they said that although it hints at that, the over-riding meaning is as it it looks - 'Start Game' - enhanced by the computer game style graphics. This image, and the slightly sinister undertone, really got under my skin whilst I was there. Very powerful marketing. I think our work offers a more optimistic counterpoint to the slightly bleak reading I have of this image. But as that bleak interpretation is mine, maybe that idea is somewhere in our piece, too. We'll see.

Thursday 11 June 2009

Who is Alexander Kelly?

Well, looking at this I'd say a slightly haggard looking 40 year old midlander... When I was in Mannheim with Homo Ludens rehearsals last week I did an interview with, who did a nice piece on The Lad Lit Project last year.

I would also add that it was the end of four long days of rehearsals, and if you give it a few minutes I do warm up a bit. Rita, the interviewer, is one of the maker-performers of Homo Ludens, she's just having to pretend that she doesn't know much about it.

Friday 5 June 2009

Homo Ludens rehearsals

Five days to make the show, this week.  Starting off by finishing off - working out the second half of the piece, working from the ideas we took with us, and the texts that Chris Thorpe had written.

Working with the performers who we started making the show with in English (Julia, Rita, Martina) and with the cast who they have been teaching the show to: Steffi, Jellena, Martin, Daniela, Natascha and Einhart (who will be performing the show in German) and Alex, who will be stepping into the English team and also doubling with Einhart as the show's Concierge figure.

It was a great five days, lots of ideas, try-outs, translating and discussion, but also plenty of decisions.  The show now has a working model, within which the performers are still honing and developing their own material.

It was great to hear the material they had all been developing in preparation for Lucy's and my arrival, and even quite moving at times how they had all really embraced this task.  The results were sounding great.

The two teams of performers have been working as each other's audience most of the time, apart from when we can find someone else around the building (Maike Lex, Director of TiG7, for example) to be an audience member to play the game. So in this photo:

Lucy (blue) is performing to Steffi (green) and Julia (red) is performing to Daniela (hiding), on a temporary version of the gameboard. The game does throw up these dual performer/audience member encounters from time to time. The second pair to arrive tend to get to eavesdrop on the other performance briefly:

These photos are by Marita Heinzelmann, a design student from Mannheim's University of Applied Sciences, who is visiting TiG7 for a photography project.  I like these other images she's been working on from an earlier rehearsal, too:

Martina and Martin.

Julia and Steffi.

Rita and Daniela.

Once the overall structure was in place we realised that the piece was too long for the 30 minute slots we have worked out.  This always serves to focus the mind, and suddenly it was very easy to make a couple of specific cuts of sections that were sitting a little uncomfortably in my thinking anyway.  So the structure and rules are in place, with time for the texts within them to evolve and develop.

Monday 1 June 2009

Problem Solving

When working with students on devised theatre projects, I often describe the process as one of both problem making and problem solving.  Creating and dealing with problems is part of working out what the show is – what the task of it is as performers. This process entails navigating a variety of parameters.  Some of these you can’t do anything about, or at least not by the time you’re in the making space in the run up to opening the piece: how much money and time you have (or have left), how many people are working on the project, when the show opens and how it has been advertised as working (when, where, how long, how much tickets cost, how may people at a time, etc).

For us (and others) devising work involves placing other restrictions on ourselves during the making process.  Decisions are made, and rules set, in order to have something to work with, and work against; because if anything goes, if anything is allowed, or possible, then where do you start, let alone stop?  These restrictions create opportunity and foster necessary invention.  The trick, of course, is to come up with rules and restrictions that make sense in relation to your intentions for the work: what you think it is about, how you want it to develop, how you feel about it.  What strategies do your instincts tell you will best interogate, challenge and, ultimately, help you understand those intentions for the work.

So, for example: for a project in which the narrative is constructed around the fact that two people might remember events from their relationship differently, such as Where From Here, it makes sense to us that the rooms they draw onto the walls of the set, to change the location of the telling, are drawn with their eyes closed; because memory, like these drawings, is inaccurate and evocative and indicative.  Drawing rooms with our eyes closed moves from being a restriction in the rehearsal room to being one of the performance modes and rules of the show.

As we return to the making process of Homo Ludens we find ourselves with an interesting  and unique combination of parameters: decisions already made, resources (time, money, people) and enduring artistic concerns.  The brief – the commission – is to make a performance work inspired by Friedrich Schiller’s text, Letters Upon the Aesthetic Education of Man, and specifically his notion of the 'playful human', and to make this work in collaboration with members of TiG7 (‘Theatrehaus im G7’ – the centre of Mannheim is built on a grid system, with block names rather than street names – TiG7 is the theatre in block G7) to premiere as part of NationalTheater Mannheim’s Schillertage 2009.  We have the studio theatre space of TiG7 available to us, but can work beyond its walls, too, should we wish.

Reading Schiller’s Letters, there were immediate connections with some of our current and recent concerns: inventions and inventiveness; trying to see human beings at their best; our relationship with objects, and the memories and emotions we attach to them and the ideas they can represent;  the beauty to be found in those objects, along with everyday situations and experiences, rather than those things that the media and advertising (and other aspects of Western society?) tell us are the beauty to be most valued; playfullness and game playing – in a co-operative, rather than competitive, way.

This, perhaps, is the aspect of the devising rules and parameters that you have least control over: what you happen to be interested at any one time; the ideas, concerns and obsessions that you find yourself returning to. Or avoiding, because the time isn’t right to explore those themes. In Third Angel we have been asked over the years if our work is autobiographical, and often the work has been written about in those terms, too – mostly the ‘relationships strand’ of our work – Where From Here, Saved, Presumption – along with the projects that aim to specifically deal with auto/biography as a theme such as Class of ’76 and The Lad Lit Project.  But actually any of our projects will tell the audience what some of  the preoccupations were of the people  who were in the room making that show, because the process is open and exploratory.

During the first making period for Homo Ludens back in February and March, we were interested in creating an audience experience that on the one hand is friendly and welcoming – like an informal conversation – but that also works on a deeper level.  An audience experience that is unusual but not intimidating.  A piece of work that is at once a game and a performance.  Something that is different every time; not in the way an impro show is different every time, nor the way that of course all live performance is different every night from its very liveness. Rather, a piece in which all the material is prepared, known, rehearsed, but in which, through decisions made and rolls of the dice, is a different experience for every audience member. We set about making a work that deals with the future, and with the finite reality of our lifespans. We talked about work that deals with getting old, but is of interest to the young. We talked about grids, squares, curved corners, and introducing more colour into our design palette.  There was also a suggestion at some point that it would be interesting to make a piece that could be performed in either English or German.

So, for the second making period Lucy Ellinson (performer and co-director) and I are travelling to Mannheim having committed to a show structure in which 30 minute performances by a cast of four, for an audience of four, are performed alternately in English and German, up to ten times a day.

I find myself at the point in the making process where the ideas coalesce and I begin to understand what it is we’re making – or trying to make. We have developed a framework into which the individual performers all lace their own material; they have all been developing their own texts between the making periods, and further texts will be contributed by myself, Lucy and Chris Thorpe. I can see a connection in the piece we are making with the future-obsession of Presumption, and I can also recognise connections with recent large-cast creative learning projects Compendium, A History of Objects (both Leeds Met University) and Lifetimes23 (University of Hull @ Scarborough), although it looks like it will work on a scale larger than those projects, even though it has a smaller cast. I’m looking forward to finding out if it works in reality the way it does in my head.