Thursday 17 December 2015

Announcing PARTUS

Well, it's not really announcing, as its been on sale for a while. More like a major update...

Over the last two years we've been working on a number of projects about peoples' experiences of birth - as mums, dads, midwives, obstetricians and doulas. The main driver of this has been our experience of interviewing people, and the amazing stories they tell.

Early outputs from this process (Labour Intensive at Derby Theatre and Cause & Effect at Leeds Library) were simply staged, verbatim pieces. We're now working with a group of young mums in Sheffield, as well being in the process of making a bigger, more theatrical show, Partus... Here's what we're saying about that:
Third Angel and Sheffield Theatres present
Crucible Theatre Studio 15 - 20 January 2016 
Times and prices vary daily: 
performances at 10.30am, 2pm (daytime performances are baby-friendly) & 7.45 pm on different days.
BSL interpreted and Audio Described performance Monday 18th
Book here!                                 
Birth. It’s a massive life or death thing that happens every minute of every day in every country of the world.
The expectations, the exhaustion, the euphoria. The shock, the sadness, the stupidly long shifts. The joy, the pain, the mess. Oh, and that first cup of tea that tasted better than anything, ever. Third Angel delves into the myths, the statistics and the politics of birth, engaging with real people and real stories. 
There will be laughter, hand-gripping tension, dancing, tears, shouting, singing and love. Come and join us: you may never think about birth in the same way again.  
Third Angel has been making extraordinary, curious, funny and adventurous theatre for the last twenty years.
We are delighted to have assembled a brilliant and exciting team to make this show. As ever, precisely defining roles in such a collaborative process is tricky and all of the following people are part of the devising and creating of this show: 
> Co-Artistic Director Rachael Walton has been leading on the various incarnations of the project with Stacey Sampson (who is leading on the Young Mums Project): interviewing, editing and writing. 
> Rachael and Stacey will both perform in Partus, and we have been joined by deviser/performers Laura Lindsay, Denise Pitter and Selina Thompson, composer and sound designer Heather Fenoughty and stage designer Bethany Wells. Lighting designer James Harrison will join us in the new year. I'm in the room as a dramaturg. 
> Hilary Foster and Liz Johnson are in the office producing and assistant producing.

Updates from rehearsals will follow, no doubt, but for now I can say that it feels a real privilege to be in the room with this team, telling these stories.


Of course, there have already been numerous other people who have been part of the whole process. Professor Susan Hogan originally invited us to be part of The Birth Project conference at the University of Derby, and we were supported in that stage of the process by Paula McCloskey and Eve Wood; for Labour Intensive we were joined on stage by Liam GerrardThea Barnes and Luca Walton-Ryan; in Leeds Library we were joined by Malaika Cunningham as researcher, and supported by the library staff. And through all stages of the process we have been privileged to hear the amazing stories of mums, dads and medical professionals. Not all of those stories can be "in" the show, but all of them have influenced the work. Huge thanks to all of them.


> Labour Intensive was commissioned by the University of Derby as part of The Birth Project, a two year research project looking at how various art forms can explore the experiences of birth and mutual recovery.
> Cause & Effect was commissioned by Leeds Library as part of the WordPlay Project.
> The 'Young Mums project' is supported by Lloyds Bank Community Fund.

Saturday 28 November 2015

600 People Programme Note

Third Angel presents
600 People
Northern Stage, Newcastle, UK
malavoadora.porto, Portugal
November 2015

This story has grown in the telling.

The conversation with Dr. Simon Goodwin that started it all off actually happened during the process of making another show, 9 Billion Miles From Home. That show was also partly inspired by the Voyager space programme, and grew to be about wider issues of distance and time. In the end, only one thing Simon had said to me - about the speed of light and falling through space - made it into that show. Not long afterwards his explanation of light clocks made it, somewhat unexpectedly, into the short film Technology. But the bulk of what we talked about had just stayed in my head, sometimes coming out in conversations with friends when another space exploration story hit the news.

Then in 2013 we got a commission to make a short spoken word piece for ARC’s Northern Elements project. One of the themes for the commission was ‘a moment when something had changed’. The conversation with Simon back in 2006 suddenly came back to me – and I realised this was a story I still wanted to tell.

This first version toured as a 20 or 30 minute ‘performance lecture’ for a couple of years, for spoken word nights, festivals, art/science events and as one of the ballads in Northern Stage’s The Bloody Great Border Ballad Project at the Edinburgh Fringe. This year, though, it began to grow, new details creeping in, new areas opening up to be explored. We’re grateful to our good friends at Northern Stage and malavoadora.porto for giving us a chance to try out telling this longer version of the story.

Given the astrophysics-lecture nature of the show, it feels appropriate to share some Further Reading. As well as the conversations with Simon, other influences on the ideas in this piece include the books Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari and If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens...Where Is Everybody?: Fifty Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life by Stephen Webb, along with several episodes of the brilliant RadioLab podcast, especially the one about CRISPR.

Thanks very much for coming to see the work – we’d love to talk to you about it after the show.

Devised & Created by the Company

Written and performed by Alexander Kelly
Inspired by conversations, and in collaboration, with Dr Simon Goodwin
Directed by Rachael Walton

Daniel Fletcher · Print design and show visuals
Nathaniel Warnes · Animation

Craig Davidson, Richard Flood, Michael Gooch, Daniel Oliviera, Emanuel Rinaldi · Technicians

Hilary Foster · General Manager
Liz Johnson · Administration & Production Trainee

Big thanks to all the staff at Northern Stage and mala voadora for their support, and to the Northern Elements team for their original belief in the project.

600 People will tour in 2016. [Get in touch if you'd like to book it]. ·
#600People · @thirdangeluk · @AlexanderKelly

Originally commissioned for Northern Elements, a development programme funded by Arts Council England & managed by ARC, Stockton Arts Centre.

Third Angel is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation and a Resident Company at Sheffield Theatres.

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Notes On A Revival

Here's the Programme Note from Presumption in Sheffield last week, plus some brand new production shots by Technical Manager and Photographer Martin Fuller:

It’s not, technically, a revival. We never took Presumption out of repertoire. It’s always been available for touring. It’s just that we haven’t performed it, we realised in rehearsal last week, for six years.

Lucy says that usually, when you stop doing a show after a long run, it’s like taking a piece of furniture out of your living room. You miss it at first, but gradually the indentations in the carpet fade. With Presumption, she says, the indentations have never completely gone.

We made Presumption in early 2006, and presented it for a week here in the Crucible Studio, performed by Rachael and Chris. The following year, Rachael redirected the show with Lucy in her role, and the piece went on tour in the UK, and to the Intercity Festival in Florence, before a week at the Edinburgh Fringe as part of the British Council Showcase in August 2007. This in turn led more international bookings, and over the next 18 months Presumption became our most performed show with gigs in Brussels, Barcelona, Clonmell, Moscow, Yerevan, Mannheim and Lisbon, before returning for runs in London and Leicester.

A show grows and matures over a tour like that, so it’s a real pleasure to bring the show back to Sheffield in the version that toured so extensively.

Since we made Presumption, we’ve all made many other shows, as Third Angel and outside of it. We’ve been busier than ever with UK and international touring (most noticeably with What I Heard About the World).

When we gathered in the Lyceum rehearsal room last week, we just had a go at it. Chris and Lucy found that a great deal of the show was still in there, in their heads. A quick re-read of the text and a second run through and we had the whole thing back surprisingly quickly.

Coming back to it after all this time, we were surprised how recent, how familiar, it still feels. We’ve carried on with our lives, of course, and all our family lives are different to when we made the show, and the world is very different, in some ways, to when we were touring it. But we’ve resisted the temptation to ‘update’ the show, or rather, the references it makes to the world beyond its walls. The conversation they’re having remains current.

Finally, this not-revival of Presumption is being staged as one of the events to mark Third Angel’s 20th Anniversary as a company. That achievement would not have been possible without the support of many people – especially you, our Sheffield audience. We are constantly grateful for your interest in the work, and the conversations we get to have with you about it. Thank you.
Alexander Kelly & Rachael Walton, October 2015

Third Angel presents
Crucible Studio Theatre,
6 - 10 October 2015

Devised & Created by the Company

Lucy Ellinson           Performer
Martin Fuller           Technical Manager & Relight
James Harrison      Lighting Designer
Alexander Kelly      Designer / Director / Writer
David Mitchell         Composer / Sound Designer
Chris Thorpe            Performer / Writer
Rachael Walton      Director / Designer / Writer

Hilary Foster            General Manager    
Liz Johnson              Admin & Production Trainee
With Special Thanks to:
Helen Fagelman; Kati Hind, Phil Baines, all of the tech team, and indeed all of the staff, at Sheffield Theatres.
Twitter: @thirdangeluk

Third Angel is a Resident Company at Sheffield Theatres.

Supported using public money from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

Tuesday 6 October 2015

Presumption Rehearsals 2015

Here are shots by Martin Fuller of Lucy Ellinson and Chris Thorpe in rehearsal for Presumption, in the Lyceum Rehearsal Room last week. Some performances are already sold out, so please do book if you're planning to see the show.

Saturday 3 October 2015

Twenty Years Ago Today...

... we opened a 72 hour performance called Testcard at The Workstation in Sheffield. We didn't think we were setting up a company, we just had this idea for a show that we thought had legs. We called in so many favours, and so many of our friends in Sheffield worked on the piece. (There's more on the show below.)

"We didn't think we were setting up a company", but from within the team that made Testcard, the core of Third Angel emerged. Thanks to everyone who worked on that show, and everyone who supported it. And thanks to everyone who has worked on the shows since, and supported the work by coming to experience it, by talking about it, challenging it, showing it, shouting about it, funding it with money and time and resources... we simply wouldn't be here without you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

 Performance photos by Alexander Kelly

Film stills by Robert Hardy

Here's what we wrote about Testcard a few of years ago:

In 1995 we were doing an MA in Film and TV in Sheffield (Alex) and a PGCE in drama in Manchester (Rachael). We had both been talking to different people about making work together, but were still thinking that there were other avenues to explore, too.

We had seen a call for proposals for the ROOT Festival in Hull, for that October. In a house in Withington, Alex wondered about us submitting an idea together.

Seemingly off the top of her head Rachael said, "Well, I've got this idea for a performance that lasts 72 hours, where two people live in separate rooms in a gallery or a public building, and the audience have to choose who they watch. The performers watch TVs the news and original footage and live video of each other and the audience. The audience can watch them during the day and on monitors and through the gallery windows at night. The woman probably takes polaroids of the audience. It's kind of about voyeurism and the male gaze."

"And perhaps about CCTV and surveillance?" Alex suggested, as he was reading Living Marxism a lot at the time.

We got some help from Deborah Chadbourn - then General Manager of Forced Entertainment - about how to write a project proposal (advice we still use and pass on to this day) and we submitted our idea, calling it Sleeping Partners. What we missed was that ROOT is themed annually, and our idea didn't fully fit into the theme that year (Civil Liberties, Civic Pride) and the piece didn't get commissioned. Perhaps we should have played down the voyeurism and played up the CCTV.

But we liked the idea, and decided to make the work anyway, for The Workstation in Sheffield. We adopted the company name Third Angel and we called the piece Testcard. We called in all of the favours we had earned in the two years we'd been in Sheffield, and spent a lot of favours we hadn't yet earned. We got a small grant from Sheffield City Council, loads of equipment and technical support from the northern media school, and trust and respect from The Workstation.

Somehow the show caught the zeitgeist and we found ourselves on page 5 of the Guardian, part of the local news questioning if it was art and discussing the possibility of hosting an edition of TV-am - which sadly (?) didn't happen.

People came and visited the work several times a day. Strange intimate relationships with strangers were developed. The piece changed conceptually as it grew each day. Rachael broke the rules, reached out and spoke to the audience, enticed them to stay in the space a little longer. She attempted to empower herself, to return the gaze. Phil (Rich
ford, the other performer) stuck to the rules; he was strict and pure and did exactly what was asked of him, talking to no one, staring at the screen. It was tough for him.

The piece, whilst being naive and a little clumsy in dealing with its themes, was also adventurous and risk taking. It reached across the city, through the strategically placed televisions, and nationally, through media coverage. Once it was over we knew we would make something else. We knew we wanted to make exciting work that would reach people nationally as well as locally. We knew we were at the start of journey, but we didn't have a clue where we were going, or how long it was going to take to get there.

In amongst the multi-media, multi-format, multi-venue elements of Testcard, the core of Third Angel's practice was born. At its heart were Co-Artistic Directors Alexander Kelly and Rachael Walton, assisted by (amongst others) Robert Hardy, Chris Hall, David Mitchell, Hilary Foster and Jacqui Bellamy - all of who work with the company in various capacities to this day.