Short film explores emotional effect of pandemic on performers

Angel of History, with (inset), Grant Archer

Writer:

Paul Genty

16 Apr 2021

Oldham Coliseum releases first of its digital "micro commissions"

Oldham Coliseum Theatre has released the first of its Micro Commissions 2021, Angel of History, a short film by digital artist Grant Archer.

Angel of History is a collaboration with ballerina Nicky Henshall, actress Shobna Gulati and composer Akshay Gulati, exploring what it has meant to be a performer during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Filmed on the Coliseum stage, the piece reflects not only on performers but on the impact of the health and wellbeing of society as a whole, and how the events of the past year can drive us forward.

The work is based on a comment by philosopher Walter Benjamin in 1940, who described a Paul Klee painting, Angelus Novus, as showing an “angel of history”, transfixed by a past he perceives as catastrophe but which is propelling him forward into the future.

“This was a team of creatives I had been looking forward to working with for a long time and this commission gave us the perfect platform to look at the past year and the pressures the pandemic has had on people,” said Archer, a digital artist whose work explores the relationship between live and recorded media and storytelling. 

In 2015 Archer co-founded Take Back Theatre with actor Julie Hesmondhalgh and writer Rebekah Harrison. Grant is also the Coliseum’s digital associate artist and is developing further digital installations. His other recent works have included Connect – a series of phone conversations at HOME, Manchester; Patient – an audio/visual installation at Oldham Coliseum and Virtual Reality films at The Lowry, the Coliseum and various site-specific locations.

The Coliseum’s Micro Commissions respond to the world over a year on from the beginning of the pandemic. Further commissions will be released in April and May: Bog Standard Creative’s A Brew, A Terrace and the 184 – a filmed play about growing up in a poverty cycle in Oldham; Joyce Branagh’s The Newcomer – an audio drama telling the true story of a survivor of a WWII Nazi German concentration camp who came to Oldham aged 12; Dare to Know Theatre’s community verbatim piece A Broken Family, Together; Tori Burgess’s audio drama A Tale of Two Giants - based on the Saddleworth folk tale of Alphin and Alder, Caitlin Gleeson’s One Foot In Front of the Other - exploring health and wellbeing through the lens of walking; and Jade Williams’s creativity and wellbeing project for young people inspired by Black British history, Pablo Fanque’s Fantastic Fair.

Watch Angel of History here