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.