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Third Angel presents


In a city lit by blurred lights and deafened by the quiet droning of television sets, there is a woman. She has rosy cheeks. She has bad breath. She takes her clothes off in every film. She is so beautiful that it hurts to look at her. She has a bottle tan, put on in the dark, in the bath. She is the cream in my coffee. 

And she watches you. And she sees that you see her. And she stares back.

Devised by Alexander Kelly, Phil Richford & Rachael Walton
Directed & Designed by Alexander Kelly & Rachael Walton
Performed by Phil Richford & Rachael Walton
Art Direction by Emer O’Sullivan
Cinematography & Photography by Robert Hardy
Editing by Christopher Hall and Jacqui Bellamy
Technical Support by Andy Curtis and David Mitchell
Funded by Third Angel and Sheffield City Council. Supported by the northern media school, Sheffield Independent Film, Optex and the entire team who all worked for free.

A 72-hour performance installation for The Workstation, Sheffield, exploring themes of voyeurism, surveillance and the male gaze. Two performers - a woman and a man - inhabit two rooms that are transparent on three sides. The rooms are separated by a corridor through which the audience travel. Newspapers and pizzas are delivered. Polaroids are taken.
Each room contains a bed, an armchair, a small kitchen area, a TV set and cameras. Each of the TV sets show the news, the other performer, pre-shot footage and the audience. The performers live in their temporary homes for 72 hours. The audience are able to access the work live in the gallery 12 hours a day, through the windows 24 hours a day and on TV monitors in various locations across the city.
Once a day the durational performance evolves into Testcard Stories, an animated performance of dialogue, film and live link video.

Looking back at Testcard

Testcard Polaroids film by Christopher Hall.

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 both still thinking that there were other collaborations to explore at the same time.

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 really 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 earnt 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 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 naïve 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.

AK & RW // 2006

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.