Saturday 25 February 2012

"theatre for the enquiring mind"

Half way...four weeks into the tour. We're having a good time, and enjoying the different feel and atmosphere the show gets in different spaces.

Audience response has been great, and there are some very nice reviews out there. So, if you're interested - and with the inevitable SPOILER ALERTS - you can read the What's On Stage review from Soho Theatre here:
This is no mere travelling show of oddities, a simple freak show of human weirdness, but a true spoken museum.
and the Public Reviews piece from The Junction, Cambridge, here: 
Dani Abulhawa has started a new Live Art blog, and her response to the show is the first entry on it, which is great:
[it is] constructed in such a way that the stories flowed in waves of emotion and energy.
And here's the review from the Northern Echo, reproduced with their permission, as it isn't on their website:
Northern Stage, Newcastle - Third Angel & mala voadora
What I Heard About The World
Review by Helen Brown

Third Angel is an international, experimental performance company producing theatre, film and video, while mala voadora, which incidentally means ‘flying suitcase’, is a Portuguese company who explore social issues and the nature of theatrical spectacle.  Quite an unlikely marriage, but its offspring production is something quite unique and brutally entertaining.  

Arriving in the auditorium, we find three men, Jorge Andrade, Alexander Kelly and Chris Thorpe, already on stage in a kind of live photograph of a dwelling that could be anywhere on earth. Their stories come from all corners of the globe and although some must be made-up, all are streaked with an uncomfortable reality, like the woman in Antarctica who cut the cancer from her own breast with the aid of a surgeon on the internet; a silent radio broadcast in Israel and a donkey painted to look like a zebra in a Zoo in the Gaza Strip. We are invited to consider global warming with the aid of salt poured into water and we meet Flat Brian, the cardboard replacement dad.

The structure of this performance is hands-on and punctuated with Thorpe’s excellent guitar solos.  Pictures are drawn, a great deal of Jameson’s whiskey is consumed and by the end of the show the stage is littered with confetti, paint, water and laughter.  All three performers are impressive; in particular Andrade, who breaths believable life into every move he makes. 

This is theatre for the enquiring mind; a journey through other cultures to find strange and wondrous stories that leave your jaw dropped and your mouth open. 

Sunday 19 February 2012

Anything is Possible

This is a piece I wrote as the programme note for Forest Fringe's first International Microfestival, at Culturgest in Lisbon, which happened this weekend.


Anything is Possible

From an original base in a dusty, under-resourced hall above an amazing cafe in Edinburgh, Forest Fringe have achieved remarkable things.

When you first encounter them, as an artist, they ask you what you need. They haven't got much to offer – a few lanterns, a couple of lighting bars, a small stage with a large pulpit on it, some other smaller rooms – but they ask you what you need anyway. You tell them, and they say, “Okay, that should be possible.”

The other thing they ask you is, “What would you like to do?” They have no agenda to impose upon you, other than, “What would be useful for you to do in our space?” You tell them, and they say, “Okay, that should be possible.” A piece performed by five audience members, who are all wearing headphones, and a television set? A man repeatedly climbing up a step ladder until he is the equivalent height of space? A danced memorial to a closed-down theatre in a different city? An all-night cabaret of one-to-one live art performances? A performance in a video shop at midnight? Okay, that should be possible.

If you don't know exactly what would be useful for you to do yet, they say, “Well, just decide when you get here.” They trust you. As an artist. Because they are artists. So they trust artists to ask themselves the questions, to set themselves the challenges, that will produce the experiences that will be vital for audiences. And pretty much, it seems to me, whatever challenge you come up with, they always find a way of making it possible.

And what do they say to audiences? They say, “Look, here are interesting artists doing great work. Come and see it, experience it, do it – okay, you won't like all of it, but you will like a lot of it, and you will love some of it, and it's all free or just one cheap ticket for the lot. Come in, experience it, stick around and talk about it.”

From the dusty under-resourced hall above the amazing cafe in Edinburgh, Forest Fringe have spread their wings and begun to tour a micro-festival model, adapting their structure to different spaces in different cities, but always maintaining their core ethos: What would you like to do? What do you need in order to achieve that? Okay, that should be possible.

If you're not familiar with how the Edinburgh Festival Fringe works, it's difficult to appreciate what an amazing, influential achievement Forest Fringe is. It started when that amazing cafe, The Forest, invited some artists in to curate a not-Fringe programme of free events during the Festival. The Forest Cafe is now under threat, perhaps gone for ever, because some people find it hard to see the amazing in things that are also difficult and unpredictable. But the influence of what they started, when they invited the creation of Forest Fringe, still ripples out through the Edinburgh Festival and across theatre and performance in the UK.

At some point, you realise that they are not 'they' any more, that they are 'you'. That you are part of the growing family of artists who make up Forest Fringe. It's an extended family I feel privileged to be a part of, and it is a pleasure to be asked to help introduce Forest Fringe to Lisbon audiences.

I feel like I am introducing two of my best friends who have not previously met. Lisbon is my favourite city that I have ever taken work to and I have been fortunate enough to collaborate with some brilliant artists, producers and venues across the city. I count Third Angel performances at Culturgest amongst my favourite ever shows. I think the two of you will get along just great.

Alexander Kelly
Co-artistic Director, Third Angel
Artist, Forest Fringe

Thursday 16 February 2012

"When something is this good..."

A quick round-up. Into our third week of touring, and the audience response has been great - really positive and engaged. We're really pleased with how people are connecting with the work.

In the warm up to this year's State of the Arts event, Alison Clark-Jenkins wrote a really interesting post on the SOTA Liveblog about the trying to comprehend enormity of the theme Artists and the Future Environment. That chimed with how we sometimes felt making this show, so I was really pleased that in that context she wrote:
I went to see Third Angel’s ‘What I heard about the world’ last week. At its simplest level,  some stories about some people in some places. In reality, a beautiful piece of  theatre with a deep, connected, emotive narrative. When something is this good, it stays; gently applying pressure to recall as you slow for an amber light, or look out of the window in a long meeting.  So, something is activated, I’m connected.

We've also done a couple of interviews about the project:
Here's Chris talking about the importance of corroborating the stories.
And here's me talking about clipboarding in Coimbra (amongst other things).

On the subject of corroboration, two popular Story Map stories have appeared in the news during the last couple of weeks - the Japanese Zoo Safety Drill (which even made it to Newsnight) and the Robot Camel Jockeys... ahead of the news, that's us.