Hatch Twelve: Third Angel and mala voadora

Text: Wayne Burrows
Photography: Julian Hughes

Third Angel and mala voadora: Story Map

Third Angel’s Story Map begins at 11am with a large, blank sheet of paper and gradually fills, over a continuous twelve hour stretch, to show and rewrite the entire world in stories, anecdotes and narratives of all kinds. The concept is that every country on Earth will, by 11pm, be represented with its name (in English) on a colour-coded post-it note, placed in its actual location on the map, hopefully accompanied by a line drawing illustrating a fact-checked and audience-sourced story about that place. A word or two to summarise each story collected will then be handwritten onto a paper wall behind the stage, becoming a kind of ‘key’ to reading the map as a whole.

In many respects, it’s a simple durational concept, albeit a far more ambitious one than usual: let’s face it, there’s something more than just a touch deranged about the very idea of rewriting the entire planet from scratch in something less than a full day. But it doesn’t come over this way in performance. Instead, the pressurised format offers a readily comprehensible framework that allows extraordinary and complex things to happen within its loose boundaries. Story Map seems to work as traditional folk storytelling, a miniature United Nations, a genuinely suspenseful against-the-clock quiz show and a massive, eccentric geography lecture, all at once. It’s also, of course, about difference, concepts of normality, who human beings are and how we live in different parts of the world.

It works like this: a card featuring the name of a country is drawn from a comprehensive but randomly shuffled deck. A member of the panel offers the country’s English name alongside its own formal designation and reads out a few facts about the place from a gazetteer. Thus named and pinpointed on the map, the audience – whoever happens to be in it at the time – is invited to share a story about that location: not a fact or legend, but a genuine, verifiable story. If no story is forthcoming, the panel move on to the next nation in the deck; when a story is offered, it is checked online (by Third Angel associate and Leicester performer Hannah Nicklin) and, once verified, added to the map in the form of a small line drawing representing it.

The result is a twelve hour long performance that ebbs and flows with its audience, to some inevitable degree, but is held together by very traditional storytelling skills and engages its audiences (whose comings and goings seem, intentionally or otherwise,  to echo wider processes of migration) by resort to a probably universal curiosity about the unknown, the quirky, the tragic and optimistic takes we all bring to that simple graphic representation of the planet we live on, the standardised World Map. Some countries seem barely to exist in our collective and individual imaginations, others quickly acquire multiple stories and seem to be haunted by the spectre of the urban myth and unverifiable tall tale (stories of uncertain veracity are recorded and saved to be checked and possibly added later).

Dipping in and out through the day, the sloping platform gradually fills with small line drawings, the wall behind it darkens with keywords to remind the company of the stories already told. As 11pm approaches, and the last few cards turn, it becomes a race to complete the map before the performance ends, the audience filling in gaps, the company sharing stories acquired at other performances, from other audiences. Gaps remain at the conclusion: Latin America and the Caribbean are sparsely furnished, for some reason, while Europe, Africa and the Far East bristle with multiple, overlapping tales. The conclusion flirts with homily but the performance as a whole – essentially a participatory exercise in making sense of complex geopolitics by way of small details and personal narratives – is undeniably fascinating.


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