The Making of The Life & Loves of a Nobody

Third Angel‘s The Life & Loves of a Nobody follows the life of a nobody, Rachel, who dreams of joining the circus and having her name in the spotlight; it scratches the surface of the world’s fascination with celebrity and relentless pursuit of fame. Co-Artistic Director Alexander Kelly gives us some insight into the process of making this productionwhich has its only London performances here 3-7 February:

We [Third Angel] pulled together our existing research [for The Life & Loves of a Nobody] from a variety of sources:

  • A 30 minute solo piece Rachael [Walton, Co-Artistic Director of Third Angel] had written and performed a couple of years ago, called All About The Full Stops, about a girl who runs away to the circus, looking for love and escape (and doesn’t find either).
  • Some more recent texts Rachael wrote in response to a week’s R&D at ARC in September [2013], and for mala voadora & Mundo Perfeito’s 10 Anos Marathon Performance in October.
  • Research about the life of Joseph Grimaldi (particularly The Pantomime Life of Joseph Grimaldi by Andrew McConnell Stott).

We talked about circuses, talent shows, entertainment as social control. We watched some Black Mirror and some Hunger Games. We revisited Chris Bachelder’s Bear v Shark. We talked about how contestants on (things like) The X-factor talked about how this was their “one chance”, their “only chance”, how they “couldn’t go back” to their other lives. And we thought about how those opportunities to escape always seem to be to allow one person to escape a long way, at the expense of those around them, rather than helping everyone escape by a shorter distance…

When we’re making work, what we’re often trying to find, is what the task of telling the story is in this project, how that task explores what we want the show to be about. By this point on The Life & Loves of a Nobody, we were using the phrase “storybook” to describe how the show works, and building images for different chapters. And the show was in traverse. The process felt like a familiar, older one. And here’s a thing. I don’t know if other companies do this, but when we’re making new work we talk (to each other at least), about which of our earlier shows the new show shares a heritage with. Which point does the new piece branch off from? With this piece we feel a connection back through 9 Billion Miles from Home, through Believe The Worst, to Experiment Zero and The Killing Show. It’s the feel of the world, the balance of narrative, text, task and the visuals and environment of the show. I’m excited about that…

The very first version of the show, called All About The Full Stops, contained the image of the narrator, as a young girl, sitting on the sofa with her grandad, watching old films and musicals on a black and white TV. Mention of it was no longer than that last sentence, but Rachael and I had both commented on how we liked it. As we’ve moved sections and text around this week, things got bumped, gaps appeared. And then Rachael called me one evening to read me a new text for one of the gaps. The image of the girl, watching movies with her grandad, revisited and stayed with us for longer.

I love the way moments like this point back to show you the way you have come, help you map your own journey to where you’ve got to – and, I guess, help you understand what’s going on in what you’ve got. They remind you of your early thoughts and interests in these ideas, in this material. Look, this is where it started. This has been here all along.

Excerpts from the Third Angel blog, written by Co-Artistic Director Alexander Kelly

The Life & Loves of a Nobody runs Tuesday 3 – Saturday 7 February. For more information and to book tickets, click here.

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