The dreams and true love stories of an ordinary life

Rachael Walton
Rachael Walton
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Despite funding cuts Sheffield theatre company Third Angel has survived. Nick Ahad spoke to them about their new show.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, but the one most adaptable to change, said Darwin. Or something like it (there are a number of versions of the quotation, but the sentiment is clear).

Yorkshire theatre company Third Angel is a perfect embodiment of this notion.

Three years ago, when the Arts Council was forced to make its most severe cuts in decades, the Sheffield-based company received some difficult news. The Regularly Funded Organisations of the Arts Council were being replaced by what is now known as National Portfolio Organisations.

Third Angel was not invited into the fold. Worse than that, without the support of the Arts Council the company’s founders Alexander Kelly and Rachael Walton, were not sure if the company had a future at all.

“We had to ask some difficult questions, look at what we did as a company and decide if we were going to survive,” says Kelly.

The decision was that the company would survive, any way it could. What helped make this decision was the enormous level of support they received in the days, weeks and months following the announcement.

Of all the companies that were cut from the RFO portfolio, the theatre community of Yorkshire seemed most surprised at finding Third Angel on the list.

Tiny in comparison to many other organisations, not only did it punch above its weight, it made interesting, delightful, challenging theatre that was not being made by anyone else.

“It was really lovely to see all the support from people who were emailing us, getting in touch on Twitter,” says Kelly. “We hoped other companies and people in the theatre community would support us, but it was very reassuring to find out that was the case.”

Determined that this interesting little company would not wither and die, several companies helped out. Sheffield Crucible was a leading light, inviting Third Angel into the building and offering to co-produce work.

“I think they get something from having us there too,” says Kelly. “We bring another energy into the place and a way of working – and the work we have created together is on tour, taking the name of the theatre around the world.”

There are high hopes for the latest piece created between the Crucible and Third Angel. Supported by Bradford’s Theatre in the Mill, a further demonstration of how many organisations want to support Third Angel, the latest show is The Life and Loves of a Nobody.

Receiving its world premiere at the Sheffield Crucible Studio next Tuesday, the piece was shown in a very early version at Theatre in the Mill late last year.

Created in the same devised way all of Third Angel’s work is comes to the stage, it features company founder and co-artistic director Rachael Walton, playing Rachel.

The character looks back on her life and the dreams she had as a child. Like the real life Rachael, the character grew up watching Hollywood black and white musicals and dreamed that she would become famous, like her Hollywood idols.

By her mid-30s she is faced with the disappointment of unrealised potential and examines, in a series of intricate tableaux, the state of her life.

“It’s about dreams and how what we dream we want to be when we’re children is different to what we dream we want to be when we’re adults,” says Kelly.

It is almost guaranteed to be a show with lots of heart and a real sense of identity – it’s the Third Angel trademark. And it’s good to have them still around.

Artistic versatility

Working across artistic genres, Third Angel was established in Sheffield in 1995.

The company works largely in performance, but has also created live art, installation, films, video art, documentaries, photography and design.

The company’s work has been shown in theatres, galleries, cinemas, office blocks, car parks and a public toilet in Bristol.

The company has worked across Europe, at venues and festivals in Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, Belgium, Portugal, France and Spain.

The Life and Loves of a Nobody, Sheffield Crucible Studio, Jan 21-25. Tickets 0114 2496000 or Tickets £5-£10.