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Tuesday, 18 September 2018

MENTORING NEWS

We are delighted to be able to announce the artists we will be working with through the Third Angel Mentoring Scheme, in collaboration with our good friends at Sheffield Theatres, who support the scheme with rehearsal space in the Lyceum and Crucible Theatres. 

The scheme was busy this year. With 36 hours to go until the deadline, we’d had seventeen applications. That almost quadrupled over that last day and a half, to 71 applications in total – more than any of the previous years. Shortlisting was really difficult, with so many interesting, exciting projects that would clearly benefit from the time, money and mentoring support. There were more projects this year where we could see how we could be of use to the projects, where we were (and are) excited about being in the room with the artists.

We made a longlist of half the projects, then the panel met (this year we were joined by Umar Butt, who has worked with us recently on The Department of Distractions and The Journeys, and is doing great work at ARC in Stockton) and got that down to a shortlist of about twenty. And any of those twenty we would have happily mentored, and we are going to try to support some of them in other ways if we can. From that great range of proposals, we looked for the projects that looked like they would travel the furthest in the week with us in Sheffield, those for whom the scheme would have the biggest impact, as well as those that might push us as mentors a little bit too.

However, all of that said, we are very excited to announce the artists we will be working with on TAMS at Sheffield Theatres this year. In the order we will be working with them:

PAPER SMOKERS: MILES APART TOGETHER

Paper Smokers’ Diary of An Expat

Paper Smokers have just had a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe with their show, Diary of an Expat. We will be working with Katharina Reinthaller, Cecilia Gragnani and Emma Dennis-Edwards on the development of Miles Apart Together, telling the story of three female explorers, Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky, Bessie Coleman and Junko Tabei. Between them these women travelled around the world by bicycle, performed spectacular airshows and climbed the highest mountains on earth, fighting prejudice and scepticism as they went. 


MARY-FRANCES DOHERTY: SOPHIE’S SALE

Mary-Frances Doherty’s Certain Things. Photo: KK Dundas

Mary-Frances Doherty will develop Sophie’s Sale (working title) - a show for 12-16year olds about teenage suicide. Recently Mary-Frances has been touring her successful solo show, Katie’s Birthday Party to a number of prestigious international children’s festivals including On The Edge: The World Festival of Theatre for Young Audiences & ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering in Birmingham 2016.


CALLUM BERRIDGE: COMING UP FOR AIR

Callum Berridge’s Orwell’s Voice. Photo: Hannah Anketell.

Callum Berridge will develop Coming Up For Air, a show exploring memory and identity, and how these things are eroded by illness and by politics. It is a show about the coal mining industry in the north of England, the politics of the 1980s and the physiological and psychological effects of Alzheimer’s Disease on the brain. 


VANDAL FACTORY & FLORA GREYSTEEL: ENGLISH DIRT

Vandal Factory’s Whatever Happened to Vandal Raptor?

Early in 2019 we will work with Natalie Quatermass and Henry Raby of Vandal Factory and Emily Rowan and Simon Bolley of Flora Greysteel to develop, English Dirt, a new show exploring themes of historic nationhood and land-ownership and connecting them to contemporary struggles around border controls, fracking legislation and the housing crisis. The group will research traditional English folk songs, historical protest songs and songs connected to nation and use them a vehicle to tell their chosen stories. 

We are really looking forward to working with all of them, and will keep you posted on how their projects

This also seemed like a good time to check in with our 2017/18 mentees, and ask them how they’re doing… we asked them all for a quick update, and this is what they said:

Natalie Wong: An Odyssey

The Orang Collectif’s CIRCE. Photo: Wang Yue

“Since working with Alex during the Third Angel Mentorship Scheme, I’ve gathered much knowledge to not just develop my proposed work but to also create opportunities for it. I have co-created The Orang Collectif, a cross-disciplinary and multicultural collective. And with the collective, I have devised and directed the next vignette of AN ODYSSEY: CIRCE at the Omnibus Theatre, a live movement and music performance with 6 performers. The next vignette that I will be devising is Calypso which will be presented at a live art evening, Sane Asylum co-hosted by The Orang Collectif in London.”


Jake Bowen: Plea Bargain

Jake Bowen. Photo: Zain Zia

“Currently I am working behind the scenes – quietly! - on my new show called Death Squad which is a more political performance than my normal work. But while also doing this I am working locally with some of the guys from HOME and The Lowry to help build my Arts Council bid to get my tour sorted for Plea Bargain, hopefully for summer 2019! I’ve hit the ground running since the menteeship and I’m so happy to have had the chance to work with my favourite artists in the performance scene and it is genuinely fueling me to make something of myself.


Jess Gibson: Work In Progress

Jess Gibson’s Work In Progress. Photo: @TriumvirateMedia

“When I applied for TAMS in 2017 I had an idea - to make a show about my experience of having Borderline Personality Disorder, Anxiety and Depression. I had been working with other artists within the theatre community in Sheffield to help bring their ideas into actuality, but hadn’t the confidence to pursue my own. TAMS was the perfect push and offered the support I had needed to rediscover my artistic voice. It really gave me a solid platform, validated my work and gave the invaluable space and time to play with ideas.

During my week in the studio, with the ongoing support from my mentor Rachael Walton, I was able to transform a very basic, 20 minute improvised idea into a 45 minute structured, autobiographical and even comical piece of theatre! As part of the one to one mentoring, I was also advised to seek out opportunities to scratch the work to audiences so I could begin to gain feedback for it’s next development stages. From this I attained a slot at Sheffield Theatres’ Making Room Studio Takeover event in January 2018 where I was able to show my work to a live audience. Having this opportunity meant gaining access to contacts such as my current producer (Joseph Willis), enabled me to meet programmers and receive the feedback I really needed to take my work to the next level.

Work In Progress is now an Arts Council Funded show that is booked in for Theatre Deli’s Autumn Programme with it’s premier on 10th October 2018

I am very fortunate to have found such a wonderful team of creatives who believe in the work and who are helping me bring the performance lots of life! Since TAMS, I feel I have gone from an artist who was shying away from pursuing her ideas to a fully realised creative who is on her way to booking a tour. This work may not have been without the support from Third Angel and I can’t recommend the mentoring scheme enough for artists at any stage of their career.”


The Outbound Project: M.E.H.

Chloe Holliday, Gordon Millar, Phoebe Stapleton, Lucy Bishop, Blain Neale and Belisa Branças in M.E.H. Photo: Nick Gilbert, edited by Jordan Turner

“Since working with Third Angel, our project, M.E.H., has progressed through to development stage. We are currently working on a script, have a fantastic cast in place and hoping to stage the first performances in mid-November at New Diorama, London. Following on from the early Research and Development with Third Angel, we have secured further partnerships to make this production possible and hope to tour in Spring/Autumn 2019.”


Holly Gallagher: Tensile Strength

“The mentorship scheme was a great success for me - it gave me the space, time, freedom, and guidance to explore a new piece of work! It was also such a joy to work closely with Alex and to pick up some new approaches to work. Since completing the scheme I have gone on to have a fully-funded rehearsal period with the work wherein I used some of the approaches I was introduced to during my week. And I have also made great new working professional connections thanks to my association with Third Angel and the faith they showed in my practice by picking me for the scheme!

Tensile Strength (or How to Survive at Your Wit’s End) is about to embark on a national tour! It has two Autumn dates before more extensive touring in 2019: Theatre Deli in Sheffield on Tuesday 9 October, and ARC Stockton on Wednesday 7 November.”

For the second year running I’m not planning to be in Edinburgh during the festivals. It’s bittersweet; I love Edinburgh and I love Edinburgh (in a different way) during the festivals, but the thought of being ready to either take a show to Edinburgh or even just visit so soon after we made Inherited Cities (and The Desire Paths and The Journeys) is impossible. 

We do have a summer project, of course – it’s already up and running. We’ve co-curated Self Build Utopias with Northern Stage and the Experimental Architecture Group for the Great Exhibition of the North. We made THE DESIRE PATHS as our part of it: 


The map of hopes and dreams is being incorporated into a group performance installation that already features the beautiful work of Hannah Fox’s SHACKLANDS, 154 Collective’s CITIES IN THE SKY, Fabric Lenny’s DOODLETOPIAS, and EAG and Culture Lab’s HERE BE MONSTERS. 

This week and next Sonia Hughes & Lisa Mattocks are in the installation with the lovely conversation piece,  WHAT DO WE WANT? WHEN DO WE WANT IT? making plans and designing placards with the public. 

Unfolding Theatre are re-imagining their BUILDING PALACES (16 – 19 August), and Northern Stage’s Young Company’s bring WHERE WE STAND to Utopia 29 August – 2 September.

154 Collective and Hannah Fox at Self Build Utopias

So my August trips will be to Newcastle to see those artists’ work and other stuff in the Great Exhibition. Please do come see us if you are in or passing Newcastle/Gateshead. We’re open 10am-6pm Tuesday – Sunday and there is always something to see. You can follow the Great Exhibition’s Arts and Innovation trails to find us, or simply go straight to Northern Stage.

However, if I was going to be in Edinburgh during the Fringe, these are the shows that I would be making a bee line for:

Footprint Theatre: SIGNALS (Photo: Benjamin Thapa)

Footprint Theatre’s SIGNALS (Pleasance). Exciting young Sheffield company making a show about interstellar contact? Obviously right up my street. I’m really looking forward to seeing this on tour.

STATUS (Summerhall) by my good friend and Third Angel collaborator Chris Thorpe and the brilliant Rachel Chavkin. From what Chris has told me, this sounds like it is as smart, fascinating, challenging and funny as their last show Confirmation – but this time with added electric guitar. If you’re planning to see this – book early.

ADVENTURERS WANTED: REBELLION (Sweet Novotel) – they’re just doing 100 hours this summer, not 250 like last year (slackers). What I love about this project is how they have reclaimed Role Playing Games as story telling. If you’re not in Edinburgh to see them live, you can always catch the live stream or follow them on Twitter.

Live Art Bistro bring their Leeds brand of genre-busting, convention-defying performance programming to the Fringe for an unmissable one day, two venue festival, ALL THESE THINGS (Zoo Southside) on 15 August. Drop in a few times, or stay the whole night – this should be brilliant.

PRICKS (Pleasance) by Jade Byrne in association with LittleMighty sounds great:

I’m a big fan of Michael Pinchbeck’s work, and he has two pieces on at the Fringe this year: A FORTUNATE MAN (Summerhall) and SIT WITH US FOR A MOMENT AND REMEMBER (Zoo)

My brilliant Leeds Beckett colleagues are in the Richard Demarco archive in Summerhall 14 - 16 August. Oliver Bray, one of my favourite stage performers, is presenting URSONATE POST TRUTH, a re-performance of Kurt Schwitters’ seminal piece of sound poetry, Ursonate, and Teresa Brayshaw’s Cinage brilliant group are performing TALKIN ‘BOUT MY GENERATION which I saw an excellent early version of in Leeds.

I’ve heard great things about Molly Taylor’s work, and so would be checking out EXTINGUISHED THINGS (Summerhall) if I could.

Volker Gerling’s PORTRAITS IN MOTION is back at Summerhall – one of my absolute favourites a couple of years ago, massively recommended.

Breach Theatre’s new one, IT’S TRUE, IT’S TRUE, IT’S TRUE (Underbelly) looks great.

I loved 2 Destination Language’s Near Gone, so would definitely be seeing FALLEN FRUIT (Summerhall).

Paul O’Donnell’s Bon Jovi musical WE’VE GOT EACH OTHER (Pleasance) sounds like it could be amazing.

And Kieran Hurley & Gary McNair’s SQUARE GO (Roundabout @ Summerhall) is a must see. In fact, Summerhall, as ever, is full of “must sees”. Sh!t Theatre’s DOLLYWOULD, Valentijn Dhaenens’ UNSUNG… just camp out there for a few days. 

We’ve been running Jake Bowen’s Plea Bargain at Theatre Deli in Sheffield today, as part of our mentoring programme, TAMS. Plea Bargain is a 20 minute, one-to-one performance based on Jake’s experience of the criminal justice system. He brought the show to us pretty much fully formed, and artistically we’ve just been helping him out with some dramaturgy and structural and design ideas. The other half of the mentoring is about helping him to tour the work, which could be slightly tricky logistically and financially, being a sited, one-to-one performance in which Jake himself is required to remain stuck in an interview room the whole time. I don’t want to say much more about that part of the piece, because spoilers.

We think the show needs another role – a slightly more performed Front of House role, which I undertook today: greeting people, explaining how the experience works, telling them what their role is, giving them some information to read before they go in to meet Jake himself.

I sit with audience members whilst they go over the information, then I let them into the interview room and set the clock. When the time is up I ask them to come out of Jake’s room and sit at our table again. Then I have to ask them to make a decision.

Jake’s show is deceptively simple, and the dilemma at the heart of it is a genuinely difficult one for many of us – I think - to come down on one side or the other of. Pragmatism versus idealism: a dilemma of our times. Consequently, this is a remarkable moment to get to sit in on. Each participant seems so invested, not just wanting to indicate their decision on the form, but many of them wanting to give detailed reasoning for it – verbally or in writing. Then my job is to give them an envelope with the final information in it. The last pieces of the puzzle.

Actually, that’s a bad metaphor. That makes the piece sound solvable, neat. But it’s not. It’s more like discovering that there are pieces from more than one jigsaw in the box. Depending on your reading of what you have just experienced, depending on what questions you have asked, there’s probably at least one big revelation in these final minutes of the show. 

My intention was to carry out my front of house role in a functional way: explaining rules, reading instructions, handing over papers, folders, envelopes. Setting the timer. Neither friendly nor rude. Efficient. But after this final section it’s just not possible to maintain that mode because people want to talk. Generally, they want to talk to Jake, but they can’t. Normally they would get to talk to other audience members, but it’s a one-to-one, so there aren’t any. So they  talk to someone who knows what they’re just experienced. It has felt such a privilege today to get to sit across from people as they have made their decisions, as they have woven the different aspects of the story together, as they have wanted, nearly all of them, to immediately share what they have been thinking about what they have just experienced.

A lot of my days are planned in advance – probably like yours. I know what to expect of them, know what’s going to happen. Today I knew what the job was going to be – was looking forward to it, in fact. But it still surprised me. It’s a good job, this, a lot of the time. Big thanks to Theatre Deli for hosting us, and to everyone who came in to share and support the work.

**

The Third Angel Mentoring Scheme will run again this year. To be the first to hear about it when it is announced, and get our other news, please sign up to our email list here.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Standing On The Map

We’ve been talking about map projections a lot recently. This isn’t a new experience for us, of course. Making Story Map and What I Heard About the World, we were lucky enough to work with the team at Worldmapper who increased our understanding of what map projections are and mean: the ‘projection’ is the way the shapes of the countries on a 3D globe are translated on to a 2D map. This inevitably involves distortion of shapes and/or sizes of the landmasses and countries.

The projection we (in the UK) are most familiar with is the Mercator projection. It’s what most of us encounter in school, and it is still what Google Maps use.

They key thing to know about the Mercator projection is that it is a navigator’s map, so if you draw a straight line anywhere across it, the compass bearing on that line is always the same. But to achieve this some distortion is required, and the closer to the poles it gets, the more the surface area of the globe is stretched out to fill the width of the map. So the size of the countries near the poles is exaggerated, relatively, to the countries close to the equator. (We talk about this in our short film, Popcorn, too).

The most infamous example of this, of course, is that on the Mercator, Greenland looks as big as Africa. Take a look, here. When in fact, on the globe, Africa is fourteen times larger than Greenland.

There are actually many different map projections available, that attempt different solutions to the 3D sphere – 2D map problem. The Map Projections website provides a great catalogue of them.

This week (tomorrow and Monday in fact!) we are restaging The Journeys, our collaboration with our good friends at SBC Theatre, for the Caravan Showcase as part of Brighton Festival. Billed as a durational performance installation, it’s a simple story telling performance, in which we trace numerous human migrations across a giant map, and tell the stories of the people – individuals and groups – who made those journeys. Some are from our own research, others have been told to us by friends, acquaintances and visitors to the performance last year.

We made the show for Sheffield’s Migration Matters Festival last summer, drawing the map directly onto the tiled floor of Theatre Delicatessen in their last week in the old Woolworths. We talked about the importance of the map projection to the show. We felt it was important that we use a true-area map projection, so that no country or continent was given undue visual prominence. But we also wanted to present the audience with a map that they recognised, that didn’t seem distractingly distorted.

We opted for the Tobler Hyperelliptical projection, which makes its own distortion visible by being oval. We then gridded up and drew this projection onto the tiled floor grid of Theatre Deli.


But a problem with the Tobler, for our purposes, was that at the extremes of the map (which is euro- and afro-centric), the shapes of some islands become almost unrecognisable – notably Japan and New Zealand. So we ended up cheating these slightly so they were more easily recognisable for the audience (and the performers!).

Now we’re making a touring version of the show, with a “portable” map. This time we’ve opted for a compromise projection. I went back to Benjamin Hennig at Worldmapper and asked his advice. He suggested we look at a Gall Stereographic Projection.

This seemed to work well for our purposes – it looks quite ‘real’ and is not too extreme in its distortions. The northernmost parts are a bit bigger in size than they really are, but given that we currently have more stories involving travels to or from Europe, that is actually helpful to the task of the performance.

James Gall’s projection (made in 1855) was used as the basis of a new projection by Arno Peters in the 1970s, to create the most famous true-size projection – most famous because it was featured in a 2001 episode ofThe West Wing. Peters’ Projection is now more commonly, and correctly, referred to as the Gall-Peters Projection. [See Simon Garfield’s brilliant On The Map (Profile Books 2012) for more about all this].

Of course, the projection is only the basis of our map. It is translated through a process of making a high contrast, 2 colour image; cutting that image up into overlapping sections; projecting those images straight down onto the floor (huge thanks to Rob Hemus at University of Sheffield for his help with this); moving the rolls of floor through that projected image and changing the images when necessary to jigsaw them together and hand painting the outline onto the floor (thank you Ellie Whittaker and Samantha-Jane Turner).


Because to understand a map, and its distortions, you need to remember what the map was designed for. And ours is designed for making journeys visible, moving across and telling stories on. We’ll be laying out our map in its first temporary home, the Brighton Unitarian Church this Sunday, and telling and collecting stories of migration (3.30–5pm on Sunday 13th, 10.30am – 5pm on Monday 14th). If you’re going to be in Brighton, please do drop in and see us.

** 

Special thanks to Caravan, the British Council, Farnham Maltings, Theatre Delicatessen and LARC/Leeds Beckett University for supporting this restaging.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

The Key - music for the homeless

One of the (many) joys of making The Department of Distractions was working with composer and sound designer Heather Fenoughty, and listening each week as a thrilling soundtrack emerged into the rehearsal room.

Heather has released one of the tracks from the show as a pay-what-you-want (well, at least £1) single, with all proceeds going to charities who work with the homeless. So it’s a great cause, and a great track. Please download and pay what you can.


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