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We’re well into The Distraction Agents second run, and we’re labelling, stamping and posting as fast as we can, we thought we’d give everyone a little ‘making of’ time with Freya and Daphne, aka Rachael and Stacey. Over to them…

And don’t forget, you can still buy The Distraction Agents from this very website! And click before the 17th December, and you should even get it before Christmas. 

Shot and edited by Helen Varley, Digital Marketing Manager

We’re delighted to announce the appointment of our new Trainee Community Producer, Liliya! Liliya will be helping out with our participation work, including the Future Makers workshops which are now in full swing!

Liliya actually started a few weeks ago, so we’re handing over to her to introduce herself and tell us how it’s been going so far.

I first learned about Third Angel when I was nineteen and retaking my A-Levels, seeing promo for ‘The Department of Distractions’. Sadly, I couldn’t see the show due to school and other commitments, but the following year I was lucky enough to be offered a place on an ‘Introduction to Directing’ course created by the Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme and facilitated by Third Angel.

By that point, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the performing arts, and after the eight-week course, I felt a strong pull towards Third Angel as a company. I really admired how dedicated, ambitious and welcoming the team was. Now, almost three years on, I am really happy to be working on that team as the Trainee Community Producer!

Most of my creative past has been on stage. Acting is my deepest passion and I’ve been auditioning to drama schools for the past few years. My most memorable performance so far was playing Nora Helmer in a production of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House with the Lantern Theatre. I like to think I still have some of Nora’s individualism, awareness and boldness after embodying her. 

Recently, I performed with Walk with Amal with Sheffield Theatres which was such a joy to be a part of, and again so fulfilling to see so many people engaged with the performance and message of the event! Alongside performing, I love facilitating theatre in one way or another: from stage managing a production of Twelfth Night to creating costumes, I enjoy many different elements of theatre production.

Being Third Angel’s Trainee Community Producer is a real honour: I get to encourage other people to explore their creativity and passion through creating new work. Facilitating Future Makers has been so wholesome. We recently collaborated with The1Devotion (Dominic Heslop) for the rap and spoken word workshop, and seeing young people engaging so wholeheartedly with expressing themselves through spoken word was beautiful. I feel really lucky that I get to give what younger me would have loved to experience.

It’s difficult for me to accurately say what my realistic expectations are for this position, being a raging perfectionist! Some days it seems like I’m always thinking “I could have done x better” or “why didn’t I think to say y?” Or “I shouldn’t have done z in this way, what was I thinking?” But one thing I can say is that I’m really looking forward to how this environment fosters my confidence, self-belief and connection to the arts in a new perspective among a team which feels like home.Third Angel is a company which has highlighted to me just how performance arts are crucial to feeling connected to ourselves, to others and to wider issues in our communities.

Outside of Third Angel, I’m working with the Sheffield Theatre’s Young Company, getting music lessons in Yellow Arch Studios or going to acrobatic, yoga and dance classes amongst other creative, holistic and freeing endeavours. I’m excited to see where these six months take me! 


Win a copy of our limited edition challenge experience!

Following a successful first run of The Distraction Agents in the summer, we’re delighted to give you another chance to play. And to celebrate, we’re giving away three boxes for free!

The Department of Distractions, a clandestine organisation that claims its job is to plant stories in the world “to make life more interesting”, is on the search for new recruits… and they think YOU might be just what they need.

The Distraction Agents is a game, a puzzle, a challenge, and a story that can be enjoyed from home in your own time. The experience includes a mysterious box delivered to your door containing five tasks set by the Distraction Agents themselves. Immerse yourself in the world of this top secret organisation, follow the video instructions sent by your recruiter, and then complete the challenges to reveal the secret code and unlock your prize! Here’s a little taster…

This competition is open to UK residents only and as it is a free draw, it’s free to enter!

How to enter:

The competition opens on Wednesday 17th October (10am) when our first posts will go out on our social media channels. 

Enter on Twitter – Like and retweet any of our ‘competition’ posts. You get an entry for every retweet, so the more posts you retweet the more chances you’ll have!

Enter on Facebook – Like and comment on any of the ‘competition’ posts tagging someone who you think would like this experience. You’ll get an entry for each person you tag.

Enter on Instagram – Like and comment on any of the ‘competition’ posts tagging someone who loves puzzles, mysteries or board games (one tag per entry, so the more you tag, the higher your chance of winning). You can also get an extra entry if you share the post to your stories. Make sure you tag us @third_angel_uk or we won’t see your share!

How the winner is chosen:

There is one winner per platform. For each retweet/share/tag you receive one entry, each additional retweet/share/tag will earn you an additional entry. So the more you share, the higher your chance of winning!

The competition closes 8am on Wednesday 3rd November 2021. Any shares after this time will not be counted.

All the entries will be entered into draw and the winner will be picked at random. There will be a draw for each platform, so three chances to win!

We will contact the winner by direct message on the social media platform they entered on.

The prize:

The prize is a free copy of The Distraction Agents experience.

If you aren’t lucky enough to win the prize, you can still buy The Distraction Agents from early November, but you’ll need to be quick as we only have a limited number of boxes available.

Questions? Contact us at

EDIT: DEADLINE EXTENDED! Contact your Work Coach to discuss a referral. 

Exciting news! We are hiring a new Trainee Community Producer to join Third Angel for a six month placement. This is a Kickstart position open to 16 - 24 year olds in receipt of Universal Credit. If that sounds like you, and you are passionate about theatre, drama and performance, keep reading…

Third Angel’s community projects are at the heart of what we do. We provide support for the next generation of artists, as well as delivering creative workshops in Sheffield with the goal of making theatre and performance accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds. As part of our programmes, we encourage individuals to explore their own creativity, express themselves and learn new skills relating to drama, performance and production.

We are looking for someone with enthusiasm and confidence to work alongside our skilled team and deliver our busy schedule of creative workshops for young people and community groups in Sharrow and Nether Edge in Sheffield over the coming months.

Young people enjoying some of our previous workshops.

The Trainee Community Producer will gain hands on experience in designing and delivering engaging creative activities and exercises for different people, be trained in safeguarding and creative evaluation, and gain skills in leadership, administration and project management. They will be supported by a mentor and buddy within the company, and through training and 1-1 advice from our partners Creative Access.

In order to apply, you must be:

  • Aged 16 - 24
  • In receipt of Universal Credit (and not have had any paid work in the last five weeks)
  • Available mid-October to March next year
  • Able to work in-person in Sheffield

This is a paid, part time opportunity (25 hours per week, including some weekend work) starting in mid October.

There is a simple application process involving answering three questions in a short video or voice message, but applicants must be referred to us by a Work Coach at Job Centre Plus in order to apply. No prior experience of this work is required as full training will be given; we are looking for someone who is excited by the work and eager to learn.

We are particularly keen to receive applications from people that have personal knowledge of the Sharrow and Nether Edge area of Sheffield, or of the communities that live there.

More details about the job and how to apply will be sent directly to applicants after we’ve received a referral from their Job Centre Plus Work Coach. The closing date is Wednesday 6 October 2021 at 5pm.

We’re really excited to be able to have a new creative voice on our team to help us complete this valuable work. If you know anyone that might be suitable, please do share. We welcome

If you need any help with applying, please contact our office on or 0114 272 4974.

Bethany Wells performing in The Desire Paths: Sheffield. Photo by Joseph Priestley.

We are looking for performers or artists who know Bedford to be part of our team for The Desire Paths from 2nd - 5th September. The Desire Paths is a conversational, durational performance that involves drawing a street map on the floor with chalk, talking to the public and inviting them to rename a street after a hope or dream for the future. It also involves listening to any stories they tell you about themselves and/or the town, and maybe telling those stories back at the end of the project. 

You can see photos and video of indoor and outdoor versions of the show here.

In Bedford we are working in partnership with The Place to present the performance in Church Square [sometimes known as Pigeon Square] so it will be an outdoor version, right in the town centre by the bus station. As visiting artists Third Angel will do some research into the history of the street names in Bedford, but we know from experience that it helps to have some people on the team who already know the streets and areas of town.

We are looking for up to 4 performers interested and/or experienced in engaging with the public, gathering stories (so listening and telling), drawing/writing in performance. You might be an actor interested in exploring more task based performance, a visual artist interested in installation and performance, a performance artist, or anything in between.

It’s 3 - 4 days work: one prep day, then two days performing, the final day will open the space up to passersby, and encourage them to use the chalk to draw their own pictures/maps/memories on the ground - probably 6 hours a day plus breaks! We can pay £120/day for freelance performers, with per diems for food and drink on top. If you’re interested, we would love to meet up and have a chat.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in joining there is an initial meeting with The Place Bedford and Third Angel teams on Thursday 8th of July - exact times/location TBC (expected between 11am-6pm depending on availability). We will be running a site visit in the town centre, talking to interested performers and finalising the plans for the event in September. If you’re interested in joining us please get in touch directly:, or reach out to The Place team on Social Media.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

The Distraction Agents Inspirations

After almost a year of planning and making we are delighted that this week audiences are finally getting to play The Distraction Agents, our brand new show / experience set in the ‘world’ of our theatre show, The Department of Distractions. The Distraction Agents is a new virtual experience with real world challenges which can be enjoyed from home: part puzzle, part film, part game, part theatre, part real life. If you’re interested in playing, all the booking info is here.

Thematically and formally, The Distraction Agents draws on a number of our enduring interests, plus also more recent concerns and fascinations. Helen, our new Digital Marketing Officer, asked if we could articulate some of those inspirations in a blogpost. Hopefully this will serve as something like a programme note, giving a flavour of our research and aims, without giving any spoilers…

Can theatre shows have sequels?
This thought certainly came up in rehearsal for The Department of Distractions, and also led to a discussion at a Third Angel Board Meeting at some point. Of all of our projects, The Department is the one that most obviously references genre fiction and TV drama, making several nods to the idea of a series – either of episodes or books (as we have noted before).

Both The Wooster Group and Forced Entertainment have created thematically linked trilogies of shows in the past, and writer/performer Joe Bone had great success with the movie-inspired Bane trilogy, which we caught two parts of at Cena Brasil in 2014. And then there’s Shakespeare’s histories, and two-parters like Nicholas Nickleby and Harry Potter… but none of these are the sort of sequel that we were thinking about.

The world of The Department Of Distractions seems so rich to us, that even before the tour was cut short by the pandemic, we were thinking about other stories to tell and games to play with it. We’d fallen in love with the characters a little bit, too, and didn’t want to say goodbye to them yet.

So it’s more accurate to think of The Distraction Agents as a companion piece to The Department of Distractions. Narratively, TDA it is set *after* TDOD, and features some of the same characters, but you don’t need to have seen the theatre show to play the new project – it’s a stand-alone project.

As an aside, we also wanted to create a new project in collaboration with the brilliant touring team of The Department: Umar Butt, Nick Chambers, Stacey Sampson and Louise Gregory. The pandemic has hit the arts hard, as you are no doubt aware, and it has hit freelancers the hardest. We specifically wanted to create work for as wide a group as we could afford to. We don’t know yet if or when The Department of Distractions will be able to tour again, so this was important to us. 

Easter Eggs (and Red Herrings)
The Department of Distractions knowingly plays with some of the tropes of detective fiction, such as red herrings & Easter eggs, as a stylistic and thematic devices. In the making process we half-seriously set ourselves the challenge of including a reference to every other Third Angel show, as well as films, TV shows, comics and song lyrics, amongst other things. Inevitably, this burying of clues has continued with The Distraction Agents. There are references to the original theatre show itself, as well as nods to other ideas, sources and inspirations.

Games & Puzzles
Both Third Angel artistic directors, Rachael and Alex, love games and puzzles. And, as we noted in Popcorn, both of us can be quite competitive. We use gaming mechanics in a lot of our devising processes. Warm up games are common in theatre rehearsal rooms, of course, and we’re not alone in using games for devising material – we call them things like ‘text generating prompts’ and ‘rule-based devising-exercises’. Several shows are structured around the turn-taking mechanics of game play, too, such as Story Map (2010), Inspiration Exchange (2010) and Homo Ludens (2009).

Photo: Nina Urban

We like crosswords, logic puzzles, sudoku, the 1–5 number square thing that is next to the sudoku. With this project we wanted to create puzzles that are genuinely tricky, but funny to play and satisfying to solve. We discovered, of course, that coming up with a good puzzle is as satisfying as solving one. (Some of us were mesmerised by this solving of The Miracle Sudoku!)

Adventure Gamebooks
Alex in particular has been a fan of adventure gamebooks for almost as long as he can remember. You might know them better as the brand names Choose Your Own Adventure, or Fighting Fantasy, both massively popular in the 1980s. But the brand Alex fell in love with as a kid were Tracker books. As a kid of 5 or 6 he had three: the Pirate one, the Detective one and the Space one. 

What made the Tracker books different to the versions that followed was that they had a picture for each entry – sometimes including clues that were not mentioned in the text. What he loved was the idea that you were exploring a world, that there was no single set narrative, and he would play them repeatedly, trying to make sure he had explored every possible avenue of the narrative.

It’s been fascinating to see the renewed interest in adventure gamebooks since the appearance of Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch episode a couple of years ago, and then in the performance work being made under lockdown. The ‘choose your own path’ mechanism has cropped up in several making processes for us over the years, most notably Homo Ludens (with TiG7) in 2009, for which we made big maps of the narrative flowcharts of those three original Tracker books. And now we have finally been able to map an adventure gamebook first, and then write it, as part of this project.

Escape Rooms
Rachael in particular enjoys a good escape room or adventure trail – either in person or, more recently, played over Zoom, as has become popular during lockdown. Something that is a challenge, but that also provides you with fun, that aims to entertain you. We were interested in making something that did this using several platforms – that provides audiences with something tangible, as well as something to watch. We asked ourselves, how do we enable people to be more active viewers of film and video work?

Playing games remotely in lockdown, we enjoyed experiences where we could co-operate, work as a team. The Distraction Agents was originally designed to be played solo, but through the process of playtesting, we realised that it could be enjoyed by a household, at the same time, or in sequence, if people want to play on their own and then pass the materials on to a friend.

Play By Mail
The Distraction Agents is an experience delivered to the audience via video communications and resources sent by post. Individual audience members are recruited by The Department to go undercover in their own lives. We’ve always loved postcards, letters and puzzles sent through the post, plus mail art, zines and play-by-mail role-playing games. This idea of remote/delivered performance is something we have experimented with before (in Pleasant Land [2004] Favourite Ever Christmas Present [2010] and Cape Wrath [on Twitter in 2011] for example) and have been meaning to come back to for some time. Working with designer Bethany Wells it’s been a joy to create maps, booklets, instruction cards and various other ‘published objects’ (for want of a better description) to send out to players.

It’s worth noting, perhaps, at this mention of players, that the ‘game’ offers different levels of involvement and participation. Play-testers spent between 2–5 hours on the experience (usually about 3hours), through re-watching and replaying different aspects of the game. Some puzzles are necessary in order to complete the task of the show, but other activities are suggestions and invitations. You can play entirely at home, or out in the world; you can play over the five days that the instruction videos arrive, or save them up and play all in one go or at whatever pace suits you.

The complication the play-by-mail element gives us is that you need to book a week in advance of the week you want to play. We’re learning how this works as we go, and are initially doing a 4-week run (details here). Depending on how it goes we might extend that 4-week window or run the piece again in the autumn. Watch this space.

Short Film
We’ve always made film work, as part of the live performance pieces, and as stand-alone shorts, and we wanted to do more of that. Performance for camera has had a new lease of life during lockdown, and watching on mobile devices has affected what constitutes a ‘short’ film. 

Short film Project Zero, made from film footage shot for theatre show Experiment Zero. Image: Rob Hardy.

Over the course of making the project (in collaboration with film-maker Brett Chapman), we moved from the idea of a smaller number of 10 minute films, to a larger number of much shorter pieces. We’ve also always liked the idea that short films are a genre of their own, and they don’t have to adhere to the rules of another genre (drama, fiction, documentary or performance for camera). In these days of video messaging and live streams to/from phones, this seems even more relevant.

Oral Folklore & Storytelling
We’ve long been fascinated by urban legends, but also the more verifiably true stories that get repeated about particular places: stories that make a point, and influence our opinions and behaviour. Modern day allegories and fables. All of these make appearances in The Distraction Agents, woven in to the daily puzzle / game structure.

Maps & Phoneboxes
The show also contains maps and phoneboxes.


We’ve probably forgotten some stuff, too, so perhaps we’ll come back and update this… If you’re playing The Distractions Agents, we would of course love to hear how your experience of it has been, and also about any Easter eggs you spot…

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Show and Tell

Here’s an update from Rob Fellman, our resident researcher, who is undertaking a collaborative PhD with us and the University of Sheffield.

Show and Tell

It has been some time since my introductory post, back when I began my journey as Third Angel’s researcher-in-residence. It is fair to say that rather a lot has happened since then! I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a bit of time working in the Third Angel archive between national lockdowns. It became a little safe haven from the very present crisis in the world outside, where I could escape amongst the pages of well-worn notebooks and in the translucent spaces between glossy slides of old photographic film.

Photographic negatives from the archive

As a brief aside, I have also recently been working on a national initiative that teaches secondary school pupils about all kinds of University-level topics. My course teaches them all manner of fun things about theatre archives, documentation, and ephemera… I am biased, of course, though I prefer to use the term ‘passionate’! I have always been interested in how archives exist in-and-around the theatre, as an otherwise live medium. Together with my students we have recently been asking whether, perhaps, a performance is an archive of sorts? And equally so, is the reverse of this also true: do archives ‘perform’? (I wonder, at least, whether their ghosts do?)

An unused prop - there are loads of these

At various times during 2020 I had been writing quite extensively about Third Angel’s Class of ’76. In this show, Alex is the solo performer and Rachael the director. Third Angel guide their audience between a nostalgic reflection of Alex’s own childhood, his current practice as a theatre maker, and his research into the life stories of his fellow classmates. At other times, akin to a classroom activity of show-and-tell, Alex introduces his audience to objects from his childhood, such as a toy army soldier and a set of marbles.

Following on from my writing about Class of ’76, I set about on my adventure in the archive, simultaneously playing archaeologist-detective, sifting through dusty boxes in the hope of finding some clues (to what, I didn’t yet know). As I worked my way along the shelves I uncovered items from various versions of the show, items mentioned in the show (such as a very retro-styled CD cover for ‘find-a-friend’ software), and letters written between Alex and his former classmates.

Class of ‘76 in performance

These items began to add to my appreciation of the show, evidencing and confirming the stories Third Angel had told their audience. I realise now, from the very physical and tactile experience of the archive, that Class of ’76 is as much a performance as it is a dispersed collection of memories, images and objects that are brought (back) together to tell a story-of-stories. It also occurs to me that, on some level, memories are images; stories are memory. Objects are three-dimensional images, physical traces of the past: earthly anchors for the ghosts of memory. As I write this it dawns on me, that all of this, is what an archive is…

Some of those props from the show

I plan to keep you updated on this blog with further musings and discoveries. I look forward to sharing more of my journey with you. If you are interested in keeping a closer eye on what I am up to, you can find me on Twitter @Rob_Fellman so please do feel free to connect with me on there.

Watch this space…

We’re delighted that the second Big Reveal of our New Year, New Team announcements gives us the opportunity to introduce you to a familiar face, although in a different role. The fabulous Stacey Sampson is joining us as our Community Producer, helping us to find new ways for Third Angel to support people to express their own creativity, find their voice and tell their stories. Over to Stacey…

Stacey Sampson  |  Photo Nelly Naylor

Stacey Sampson | Photo Nelly Naylor

If you follow the work of Third Angel, you’ll know that last year marked their 25th anniversary, and to honour that they released a collection of work – There’s A Room. It’s a title that resonates with me because I feel as though I’ve been wandering in and out of that room for the past seven years.

I first worked with Third Angel in January 2014. I remember it vividly because it was my first day back in a rehearsal space after having a baby. I walked in, saw Rachael and Alex’s welcoming faces amid a constellation of dancing paper butterflies and thought – this is a room I really want to be in. That meeting sparked a conversation about birth, which eventually evolved into our ‘verbatim cabaret’ Partus. It became a huge part of my life, and I wrote a blog about it here.

Stacey in Partus

Stacey in Partus at The Crucible Studio, 2016 | Photo Helena Fletcher

Since then I’ve also spent an unforgettable month at Edinburgh with The Paradise Project; chalked city-streets on Desire Paths; delivered industry masterclasses for Future Makers; collaborated with sixty amazing young people to devise Inherited Cities; toured with The Department of Distractions; and proudly took part in the launch of There’s a Room.

So now… It’s 2021 and I’m walking back into that room, but with a different hat on. I’m taking up the role of Community Producer – a post that’s not only new to me, but to the company. They’ve always been committed to creating work that defies boundaries, transcends traditional theatre spaces and actively acknowledges their audiences; But this post will allow for even greater focus on Third Angel’s relationship with groups and communities, forging partnerships and designing projects together.

Stacey in Inherited Cities rehearsal

Stacey in rehearsal with the young cast of Inherited Cites 2018 | Photo JSP Photography

It’s something I’ve been doing for a long time – collaborating with people of all ages in schools, libraries, community centres and theatres; but also parks, take-aways, police stations and disused steelworks… It’s a cliché, but I really am passionate about the arts being for any time, any place, anyone. 

As well as my part-time role at Third Angel, I’ll continue to freelance as a performer, facilitator, writer and dramaturg. The role of Community Producer will give me chance to draw all of these threads together. I can’t wait to get stuck into working with fantastic organisations like Artfelt + Sheffield Children’s Hospital, finding inventive ways to deliver activities to young people during the pandemic and beyond, growing the reach of Future Makers and Desire Paths, and developing new ways of framing arts experiences that massively chimes with my ethos.

Stacey in Desire Paths

Stacey talking to contributors to The Desire Paths in Sheffield 2016 | Photo JSP Photography

Above all, I’m excited to become a more permanent member of this exceptional team. Third Angel are – as individuals, and as a whole, some of the most dedicated, innovative and supportive people I’ve ever had chance to work with. And this ‘Room’ that they’ve spent 25 years cultivating, is a really special place to be. I’m so happy that I now get to take off my coat, pull up a chair, and settle in.

There's lots more information about making and touring Third Angel projects 2008-2017 on our original blog, and 2017-2023 on the blog on this site.