Sunday, 29 January 2012

Packing the Van

Why tell these stories now? Why tell these stories again?

Stock-piling books, DVDs, comics, articles and music to take with me on tour. Stuff that's been on the to-read/watch list for months, some stuff bought especially. Touring luxuries.

Getting a bit done on the next two shows - moving them forward, conceptually and logistically, to a point where they can rest for a month until the latter half of the tour releases the head-space to pick them up again.

Checking the words are still there. Or rather, the stories. Discovering, as usual, on talking-to-myself walks to work that the words are still there - but the numbers aren't. Going back to the text to check dates and quantities.

Going back, too, to the wider research from making the show. Refilling my head with the stuff that is there in the show as spice and flavour, or (to push a metaphor) as stock, rather than as a main, visible, ingredient.

Planning workshops, talks, screenings and schedules. Getting my hair cut.

Asking myself, why tell these stories again, now? Remembering what first grabbed me about this stuff when Jorge told the first three stories. What made me want to tell these stories and find more of them. Thinking about how this project meant we had to look for bad stories, and the awkward contradiction of feeling pleased when we found them.

The What I Heard About The World project has been active in various forms, on various platforms, for almost two years now. That's pretty good service. Why tell these stories again?

I remember being sent a link to a story about a Korean couple who let their three-month old baby die because they were spending so much time playing an online game called Prius, in which they had to look after a (fantasy, magical) child. I thought simultaneously, (as a maker) brilliant, and (as a parent, as a person)...just...well, I don't know. Shock, disgust, disbelief. Anger, in fact.

I've been remembering that this contradiction is one of the things the show is about. It's about how we use stories. How we fit them in to our own agenda. At about the same time a similarly horrific and tragic story occurred in Sheffield - but not with the game element, and not, obviously, taking place in Korea. It seemed to me at the time - and a more recent internet search seems to confirm this - that whilst the Sheffield story was in the papers, it wasn't as widely reported as the story of the Korean family.

We like a good story. We like to repeat a great story - and to be brutal, the Korean baby and the computer game is a great story - partly because of the game, and partly because of where it happened. Korea. And as Chris says in the show,
...the thing about Korea, is, it's a very long way away. I mean, not if you live in Japan, but it's a long way away from the UK.
And, as Chris wrote to me just now, of course comparatively few of us have been to Korea. But we know it's part of our world. It has to exist, because we've heard of it. It's indisputably out there. We can watch its news. We can youtube its game shows and buy its exports. But for most of us, the place itself is just a series of facts, of anecdotes, without the balancing force of direct experience.  

I'm thinking about how, on one level, these stories of stand-ins are metaphors; their subject matter reflects the job they do as we carry them in our heads - as a stand-in for knowledge. As a substitute for understanding what it's actually like. Not that all the stories are as dark as the Korean story by any means - some of the stories in the show are ridiculous to the point of being almost unbelievable. A series of fakes, carefully crafted to let us believe we see the real thing.

They're a great stories. They suit our purposes. So we'll tell them again.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Back on tour

*This post was UPDATED on 12 Feb 2012*
[Watch a video trailer of What I Heard About The World here]
[Watch a video trailer for Story Map here]

In February and March we're on the road with both Story Map and What I Heard About The World, along with a programme of talks, workshops and related events. A simple tour list is up on the News Page of the website, but I thought it might be useful/interesting for some readers to go into a bit more detail about what's happening where, when and why. To tell the story of the tour, as it were.

We now think of the two pieces as a companion pieces (more on that in later blog post, I think), and certainly the plan is that in each performance of What I Heard About The World we will include a one different story that we have found through the Story Map research.

 photo: Craig Fleming

We kick off with what feels like a combined two-week North-East residency at ARC and Northern Stage, who between them are hosting the complete range of the project plus some other associated projects.
Story Map: Tuesday 31 January, 10am – 10pm
What I Heard About The World: Thursday 2 February, 7.30pm

What I Heard About The World: Wed 8 – Fri 10 February, 8.15pm
Weds 8: post-show mini-Playing With Time video screening in Stage 3 – we'll be introducing three short films from the Third Angel repertoire.
Thurs 9, 7.15pm: pre-show talk Stories We Didn't Tell. Created for the Society of Cartographers' Summer School and the NASN's Dialogues series, Stories We Didn't Tell explores the development of the show and the three way collaboration between Third Angel, mala voadora and It includes, unsurprisingly, a few of the stories we don't tell in the show, and considers why we don't tell them. (This talk is available for other venues – get in touch).
Also on Thurs 9: post-show talk with the creative team.
Then What I Heard About The World is on tour across England, starting in the North West:
Thursday 16 February, 7.30pm
Having worked a lot with the Axis team in Alsager, this will be our first visit to the new space in Crewe. We'll also be showing two new video pieces - Story Titles and World Cartograms - inspired by the research process, again in collaboration with, in the foyer gallery space, all week, too.
Friday 17 February, 7.30pm
We are delighted to be the opening event of the new WordofWarning programme in Manchester. There will be a couple of speeches, a bonus short performance and drinks – come and celebrate!
And then we head South, with a welcome return visit to be part of the fantastic season at:
Monday 20 February, 8pm
Followed by two weeks at the brilliant:
Weds 22 Feb – Sat 3 March (not Sun 26), 7.45pm
plus Saturday Matinees at 3.30pm
It's our first visit to Soho, and we're really excited to be taking the work there - come along, tell your friends! We'll be running a number of workshops whilst we're in London – get in touch if you'd like us to run one with you.
Also, during the run at Soho, Chris and Hannah Jane Walker will be presenting The Oh F*ck Moment, as a late show on Friday and Saturday evenings at 9.45pm. It's a great show, so why not come down and see both...
After that, What I Heard About The World continues, heading to the South West, the South, and, er, the Middle (ish). Trace this last two weeks of the tour on the map... We start with one of our favourite venues:
Tuesday 6 March, 8pm
And then a run of really exciting venues that are all first time visits for us:
Thursday 8 March,8pm
Friday 9 & Sat 10 March, 8.15pm

Wednesday 15 March, 7.30pm

What I Heard About The World tour finishes at
Friday 16 March, 7.30pm

followed by Story Map:
Saturday 17 March, 10am - 10pm
Then to finish off the whole tour, we head to (South) London with Story Map:
Saturday 24 March, 10am - 10pm
photo: Hannah Nicklin

So, a bit more about the project:
Both pieces are devised and performed by Jorge Andrade, Alexander Kelly and Chris Thorpe, and created in collaboration with José Capela and Rachael Walton
In Story Map we are joined by online-documenter/researcher-corroborator-dramaturg Hannah Nicklin, and throughout the project we have been assisted and documented by Lauren Stanley.
All of this has been managed by Hilary Foster for Third Angel and Manuel Poças for mala voadora.

What I Heard About The World
"A theatre piece with two songs: one original, one karaoke."

There's quite a lot on this blog about the process of making the show: 

Story Map
A 12 hour durational research performance.

You can follow Story Map online, as it runs live. Just visit:
and/or follow me (@AlexanderKelly) on Twitter.

There are some thoughts from me about the 12-hour nature of the performance, here.


Third Angel and mala voadora present
What I Heard About The World & Story Map
A co-production with Sheffield Theatres and Teatro Maria Matos, Lisbon
Supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.