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Saturday, 29 July 2017

Edinburgh Fringe recommendations

We’re not taking a show to Edinburgh this August. We have a summer of plotting, planning, holidays, decorating and writing ahead of us, before an autumn of touring and mentoring, and a new show in 2018…

But there are many Third Angel artists and collaborators and friends with work at the Fringe, plus a number of artists who we are currently or have recently mentored. So if you’re going, do check some of them out.

From Third Angel artists and collaborators:

Chris Thorpe has a new play with Rachel Bagshaw and China Plate:
The Shape of the Pain at Summerhall
plus readings of 
Your Best Guess with our Portuguese family mala voadora (above) at Cameo Live
and his new piece 
Status with Rachel Chavkin at the Traverse and Northern Stage.


Photo: Proto-type and Fenia Kotsopoulou

Gillian Jane Lees is co-director of Proto-type Theater, who are at Summerhall with
A Machine They’re Secretly Building.

Artists who we’ve mentored recently, all presenting some lovely work this year:

Yolanda Mercy’s
Quarter Life Crisis is at The Underbelly.


photo: Lizzie Coombs

The Mayers Ensemble’s 
What If I Told You is at Army @ The Fringe in association with Summerhall


Charlotte Blackburn’s
Edgar & Me is at ZOO Southside.


Daniel Bye’s 
Instructions for Border Crossing
is part of Northern Stage at Summerhall.


Action Hero are performing their six-hour epic, Slap Talk, twice!


And LaPelle’s Factory are presenting their new show The Black Cat at Underbelly.


If I *was* going to the Fringe I would definitely be going to see:

photo: The Other Richard

Selina Thompson’s
salt which is part of Northern Stage at Summerhall.

…and checking out some other Sheffield/Leeds pals’ shows:

Javaad Alipoor’s The Believers Are But Brothers 
(Northern Stage at Summerhall)

Forest Sounds’ The Church of Jim is on at
The Black Market Room (The Free Fringe)

Heather Morgan and Lucy Haighton’s BEAM
is also at ZOO Southside.

Aletia Upstairs’ The Artist as Explorer at Summerhall.

Eggs Collective Get Around also at Summerhall (okay, they’re Manchester but they’ve been to Leeds recently, and did great work with my students).

And, let’s face it, I would be spending as much time as possible at the 250 hour durational role playing game performance ADVENTURERS WANTED at Sweet Holyrood.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Introducing Rhiannon

We thought we’d let our new member of staff get her head around her commute and our filing system before we performed the Big Reveal, but we think we’re all ready now, so without further ado, we’re delighted to announce that our new General Manager is *drum roll* Rhiannon Jones! And here she is, in her own words, saying hi. Over to you, Rhiannon…

Starting Now

Hello. Pleased to meet you. I have read this blog before and now here I am writing a post for it. I’m the new General Manager for Third Angel. So, in my new role, I have been invited to write a guest post so that I can introduce myself. So here I am, in a wordy kinda way saying ‘Hello. Pleased to meet you’ and having one of those moments where you shift slightly awkwardly in your seat and take a deep breath as you have to speak, or in this case write, about yourself!  So here goes…

Photograph: Kelly and Jones, Primary 2017

When Third Angel advertised for a new part-time General Manager to oversee day-to-day operations I thought, yerp, that sounds like me on a good day. I had experience of team management, and could get ‘disproportionately excited by well put together management accounts, can whip art-speak into funder-friendly plain English at the drop of a hat and adore crafting an elegant contractual clause, this is the job for you’ to quote Hilary! Since graduating I have made and exhibited my own work within the arts sector in the UK and overseas, co-founding InDialogue and most recently collaborating with artist Traci Kelly (2015-present). I am an artist in residence at Primary Studios, Nottingham, where I am based. Alongside a career in academia as a visiting lecturer, I have a PhD in Visual Arts entitled The Artistry of Conversation. It focuses on creative design for conversation within arts practice. This was the culmination of six years of working in the arts and the public and private sectors. Now I see this job as general manager as a strategic role that bridges the gap between the arts and business.  To start a new conversation.


Photograph: InDialogue, Nottingham Contemporary 2016. Photo credit: Dani Tagen

But why did I join Third Angel? Well, I have enjoyed seeing their work since my first introduction to their practice as a student at De Montfort University, where I was taught by Rachael Walton on the BA Contemporary Theatre degree back in 2003. As you know, they are a groundbreaking company touring original and dynamic devised work in the UK and internationally, reaching different audiences in different ways. So it is a very exciting prospect to be working alongside Rachael, Alex and Hilary (in her new role as Executive Producer).

Photograph: Kelly and Jones, Primary 2015. Photo credit: Julian Hughes

It is my strong belief that whatever your involvement in the arts, you keep the blood running through the veins of this ever-challenged sector, especially in the light of the results of the general election, the hard or soft negotiations for Brexit that lay ahead and for all of us working in the arts. The current climate comes with its many ‘known unknowns’. But, nevertheless we continue to make the arts thrive with smiles on our faces and a continued love and passion for what we do best.  

Photograph: Kelly and Jones, Primary 2017

So, as I embark on a new journey professionally and look forward to the exciting challenges that lie ahead for me in my role of general manager for Third Angel I’ve made a pact with myself – to support Third Angel so that they can continue to do what they do best – making positive changes to peoples’ lives, as ‘theatre is part of the conversation that helps people to understand their place in the world’ (Third Angel 2017). They make work that matters – telling real stories about real people, focusing on the detail, the hidden beauty of everyday life and I believe now more than ever we need to make every day count.

Starting…  

Now.

Photograph:  InDialogue, Nottingham Contemporary 2016. Photo credit: Dani Tagen.

Table drawing from the artists' conversation workshop at Flare 2017

This afternoon I was invited to be on the panel for the Flare Open Forum. It was an open discussion curated by Cradshaw (Kate Craddock and Teresa Brayshaw), with myself, Beth Cassani and Richard Gregory asked to contribute some thoughts and questions towards the end, particularly in reference to time and place. Here’s what I said.

(Although I tried to avoid spoilers, if you’re at Flare and haven’t seen Party by Beaches yet, probably best not to read this until you have).

**

I arrived in this room about 59 minutes ago, and 57 minutes ago, I started to write something, because Teresa and Kate asked me to say something. Here’s what I’ve written since then.

I arrived at FLARE at about 10.30 yesterday morning. My first experience of the festival was to facilitate a set of conversations which I then realised I had basically excluded myself from.

My relationship with time was then a familiar one from running workshops: “How is it going? I haven’t prepared enough to fill the time I’ve been asked to fill… oh, no, we’re probably okay… oh, no, we’re going to overrun, I’ll have to cut something… oh,no, I think we’ll be okay after all.”

So this is my question: where and when am I, or are you, when I am (you are) watching shows?

In Blind Cinema I am distant. I am at home with my children. I am here, missing them.

In Dead Pig’s A Work of ART I am present, in this room, watching their bodies, in the now, watching time pass for them.

In Emma Gannon’s Civilisation I am here, now, in this world, and sometimes, I think, in a near, possible future. Also, as a maker of shows, I am here, in the room, listening to the way she integrates scientific detail into her narrative, because that’s what I do, too.

In BOG’s One, performed by Lisa Verbelen, I am transported. To her world, to her time. Removed from my own frame. Entirely in the moment of her voice, in the moment of the mechanics of the show, in the moment that the gently scrolling screen tells me will happen next.

In K.U.R.S.K.’s Leopard Murders I am in the past. In the world’s past, in history. In a past I have heard about all my life, but not experienced because it happened before I was alive. I am reminded, though, that this past is only two generations ago.

And because the show is about Timo’s grandfather I am also with my Grandad. I am at Cape Wrath in Scotland six years ago, where I went to remember my him, and his journey to the same place nearly 30 years ago.

In Party, by Beaches, I am, because they place me there, in my own past. I am on a beach in Rio De Janeiro, at night, with my friends Paula and Claudia.

I am in my teenage bedroom, putting the audio cassette of Talking Heads’ Remain In Light into my Aiwa tape recorder (which at the time we called a ghetto blaster).

I am at the Crest Hotel Birmingham/Walsall (it was in Walsall but they thought more people would stay there if they said it was in Birmingham), - where I work behind the bar - Staff Christmas Party, December 1987, dancing with a girl who works in the restaurant, a girl whose name I can no longer remember, a girl who, despite the fact that she has asked me to slow-dance to this, the ballad at the end of the night, I will, for some reason, never kiss.

And then, later in the show, I am absolutely in my body, in this moment, in this room, with the nine people I came in with, plus the performers who are caring for us, thinking only about the sound I can hear, the shape my body is making, the feeling of being here, now.

In this room, in the last hour, I am in this room, now, but also back in those shows, and in the times and places they made me think of, feel of.

I am listening to Kate and Teresa talking about festivals, about time, about places.

Yesterday I was having a conversation about time, about the time it takes to get ready, and I talked about a story from the book Pip Pip: A Sideways Look At Time by Jay Griffiths, which is for my money, one of the best books written about time. In it she tells a story about being in a village in, I think, South America. Whilst she is there, a couple get engaged to be married, and the whole village celebrates. Jay asks them, “When will the wedding be?” And they don’t understand the question. They don’t understand the idea of setting a deadline then trying to get everything ready by that date. They think: get everything ready, and when it is ready, then have the wedding.

That’s maybe not very useful for people setting up and running festivals, but it’s what I think about when we start talking about time.


Nearly 5 years ago, when we were writing a hefty funding application and thinking about all the ways we could support the next generation of theatre makers with actual cash, we noticed that while there was a growing number of opportunities for artists (and hurray for that), there weren’t many for those with ambitions to make the work happen. We wondered what we could do about that. And so the Admin & Production Internship was born, and joy of joys, the application was successful, and we’re now about to recruit our third intern. 

Two years on, our motivation for offering this training position remains the same: we want to support those starting out in the industry. It’s something we feel pretty strongly about. We all benefit from the next generation getting the chance to learn, to find their thing. We remember how hard it is to get started, particularly with the ‘can’t get a job without experience/get experience without a job’ catch 22, unless you have the resources to be able to work for free. And a lot of people don’t. And while there are many more opportunities for fledgling producers now (again, hurray) we think we offer something a little different.

It’s a 12 month paid post, working primarily with the General Manager and Executive Producer. The job pack and application form can be downloaded here. Closing date is 2pm on Monday 12 June and we hope to be interviewing in the week of the 10 July, with the successful candidate starting with us mid-September.

A couple of things that we learnt from the last two years that might be useful:

- We don’t set word limits, but please bear in mind that we had over 60 applications in both years and at least half of them were very strong. Don’t make us hunt for evidence of your brilliance. We appreciate elegant prose, but sometimes bullet points do the job better.

- If you say you have an excellent eye for detail, it’s a good idea to use spellcheck at the very least. 

- If your experience or ambition is primarily as a performer, maker or artist, you need to a) be really honest with yourself about how you’re going to feel being at a desk for a year and b) persuade us that you’ve really thought about that.

If you have any questions, please give me a call on 0114 201 3876 or email me. And please do share far and wide. I’m looking forward, again, to seeing what ambitious things you all want to do.

Oh, and before you apply, it might be a good idea to check this earlier blog post, in which I get a bit ranty about sloppy emails. The principles are the same for this process too.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

My part in Partus

I’m really pleased to be able to share another postcard from the Partus team - this time from actor/writer Laura Lindsay (the previous one from Stacey Sampson is here).

I asked Laura if she would like to write about her take on being part of the Partus project - big thanks to her for sending this over. Partus is on at Barnsley CIVIC this week (10.30am & 7.30pm on Thursday 13 March); you can find Laura on Twitter @mslauralindsay.

**

Laura Lindsay in Partus; photo by Helena Fletcher

Hullo, I’m Laura. I’m an actor and theatre-maker and I am part of the cast and devising team behind Partus. Working on this show has been a hugely rewarding process for me and I thought it might be useful to share some of my discoveries. I have a fondness for subheadings, so here goes: 

1.     The Imposter

Partus, as many of you will know, is a show about birth. Now, I have not had the ‘pleasure’ of the experience, apart from being propelled into the world 30 some years ago. I also have not been part of a devising process, apart from at drama school nearly 10 years ago. So in many ways, I was a strange choice to join a team creating a devised piece of theatre about birth. Where are my credentials? This question is something I am often plagued with, as I think a lot of artists are. The imposter syndrome. However, working with Third Angel and the process of creating Partus together has enabled me to recognise and value my skillset and understand the importance of alternative perspectives in theatre-making.

Firstly, my lack of devising experience is only part of the picture. It is all too easy to focus on the things you can’t do or haven’t done. Being part of Partus has not only developed my knowledge and skills in devising, but it has highlighted and affirmed my aptitude in areas I think I took for granted. My writing experience was fully embraced by Rachael and Alex. I was encouraged in the suggestion of ideas, generating content and structuring the show. Gradually, I began to see my value in the process, because I was a different practitioner. They saw it before me, and for that I am very grateful.

So much of the structuring of theatre ecology is to separate it into different forms, and often as theatre-makers we can become a little blinkered and precious about our own specialism.  I think some of the most interesting theatre comes from blending these forms, from taking input from a variety of influences and knowledge bases to create something truly unique. Partus is a show I’m immensely proud of, but not one I could have ever envisaged making on my own. It blends verbatim accounts, songs, moments of absurd live art, scripted sections, audience interaction and balloon choreography. It’s bonkers. But then birth is pretty bonkers. So it feels apt.

My lack of being a mother – or being ‘child-free’, to put a more positive spin on it - was also an important part of creating this show, rather than a hindrance. I am the only one in the touring cast who hasn’t given birth.  For the first couple of weeks I battled with this, feeling a little bit like I wasn’t ‘in the club’. However, again gradually I began to see my value in this process. When dealing with a subject matter which is so emotive and personal, and is potentially a bit niche, it is really useful to have an outside perspective. My lack of personal experience meant I was able to contribute to objectivity about material, to ensure other voices are acknowledged and to help the process of broadening the appeal of the piece.

2.       The Audience

Integral to the devising process and to experimental live art is a recognition of the audience and the importance of clarifying their role within the piece of theatre. As an actor working on established scripts, which often deploy the ‘fourth wall’, it’s easy to almost forget about the audience, to focus on your own process, the journey of the character, your thoughts, your feelings, etc, etc. But ultimately, it is the audience who we create theatre for, it wouldn’t exist without them. We certainly wouldn’t get paid!  So it was really refreshing to put the existence of the audience at the centre of the conversation when creating the show. Who are they? Why are they listening? What is our relationship to them? What is their experience of the show? The process of devising live art highlights the role of the audience and focusses on the communication between them and the performer.

Touring the show to a variety of different venues has been a really valuable reminder of the potential power of theatre on an individual level. We received some of the most heart-filling, encouraging feedback from a man who was part of an intimate audience at Colchester Arts Centre. The piece had a profound effect on him on a personal level and he was kind enough to let us know. This feedback was a reminder to me of why I make theatre: to have an impact, to move, to stimulate, to ask questions and to start a conversation. And the impact can be more profound in an intimate setting.

As part of the tour we have provided ‘baby-friendly’ shows in the morning where mums and dads can come with their baby to watch the show in a relaxed atmosphere without having to worry about disturbing others. Performing to these audiences has been really special. It has brought the subject matter into sharp relief: the miracle of birth and what is at stake, the joy, the pain, the fear. Sharing these stories with a room full of women (and some men) and their recent family additions has been another reminder of how theatre can be a vital and profound expression of people’s experience. The Partus baby-friendly shows have got me thinking about the work I produce myself and how I can ensure greater accessibility to people who would otherwise struggle to attend the theatre. 

Photo: Joseph Priestley

3.   Generating Material

Being new to devising I had to make a bit of mental adjustment as to the purpose and focus of being in rehearsal. On scripted pieces, a lot is already decided before the cast enter the room – the script, the design, the format. Once in the rehearsal room, there are discoveries to be made, but they are limited within the context of these decisions. Within a devising process this can be blown wide open –  it might be that nothing much is decided before you enter the room – the content, the form, the design… only really the subject matter. This blank page approach can be a little daunting. But it is also exhilarating too – anything is possible, and I had an ownership of the piece I would not have had if I was not part of these decisions.

One of the main things I found interesting about devising is the exploration of ideas. A good general rule of thumb is that there’s no such thing as a bad idea. You simply don’t know which suggestions are going to work and fit into the picture of the whole show until you try them and start to build the wider context. In this way, devising is rather like a first draft of a script where you allow your imagination to wander and the words to flow uninhibited and uncensored. It is after you get everything down that you can start to shape it. There is something more exposing about this process of presenting unadorned, partially formed ideas to other people rather than simply sharing them with your laptop. But it is also brilliant, because so much of devising hinges on sparking something off, a shared discussion and the development of an idea beyond its inception with everyone in the room.

We joked a lot in the room about ‘fridge-dooring’ a lot of ideas. I initially interpreted this as the obligation to display the idea, despite its poor quality, in recognition of the effort it took to generate it – rather like a child’s indecipherable painting lovingly held to a fridge door by a magnet. But in fact, it is more a ‘parking’ of the idea to possibly revisit later, depending on what components are needed – it is an option, or can be a further stimulus for generating something else. This filing is fluid and things went up on and down off the proverbial fridge door a lot as the show developed.

The great thing about generating ideas as a group is there can be no preciousness about whose idea it is and everything should be proposed with generosity and positivity but without being too attached to it being realised. There are moments when you can feel like there’s no clarity and nothing seems to work, but this is part of the process and you have to push on through with the same energy and enthusiasm as when it goes smoothly.

Having a designer in the room as part of the idea generating process was a real eye-opener for me. It was fascinating to explore how design and space impacts not only on the audience’s experience of the show in performance, but the direction of the piece as a whole. The format and setting of the show can influence the content as much as the other way around. The two elements evolve together. In fact the design is an integral part of the content, not a dressing or an imposition on it.  It has made me very tempted to involve a designer at a much earlier stage in my drafting process when doing scripted work.

 

4.     To be continued…

One of the many things I admire about Rachael and Alex’s work is that it is constantly evolving. Nothing is ever finished. There is always room for tweaking and refining even once the show is out on tour. At every venue, for every show, elements of the piece can be adjusted. These may be small adjustments, but it ensures that there is always an active critical eye on the work and that the piece is responsive to an audience.  This gives the work a quality of ‘liveness’ it would not have if it was simply polished and replicated.

Something that has contributed to this process is that the dates of the tour have been quite spread out, in order to be touring-parent-friendly. This has also given the opportunity to have time for reflection and to revisit the performance afresh.

**

I come out of my experience of making and touring work with Third Angel incredibly proud of the show we have made together, but also enriched by their process and excited to let it infuse my own practice of making work

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