Fallen Angels Dance Theatre, company-in-residence at Storyhouse, exists to support those in recovery from addiction to transform their lives through dance, performance and creativity. Catherine Jones spoke to the founders about their new ambitious film project Transfiguration.
It’s more than two years now since Paul Bayes Kitcher and Claire Morris, founders of the – first started talking to Storyhouse about working on a project together. Now, that conversation has finally become reality with a trilogy of compelling new short films being premiered online this year, marking the first official creative collaboration between Storyhouse and the company-in-residence.
Transfiguration brings together the talents of creatives and dancers from Fallen Angels and offers a glimpse of defining moments in the journey from addiction to recovery.
I Fall, the first part of the trilogy, was released on storyhouse.com in January. The second film, I Need, premiered on 31 March, and the last, We Rise – based on a poem by Frank, a member of Fallen Angels who died last year, will be released on 31 May.
“Originally it was called Metamorphosis but now it’s Transfiguration because that’s a more positive transformation term and we really want to express that,” explains Claire, who co-founded Fallen Angels with former Birmingham Royal Ballet dancer Paul a decade ago.
The project’s name (and indeed the film’s individual titles) also has spiritual connotations.
Paul, who himself went through a period of recovery from addiction before founding the company to help others, says: “I think in my own personal recovery journey, the whole thing that got me through was spirituality – and for a lot of my friends as well.
“Also, Frank wrote me a poem, which is We Rise, about spirituality and what it meant for him.”
While he appears as an actor in the final film We Rise, this is not Paul’s own story. In fact, it’s not one single person’s story at all but three brief looks at different stages of the addiction and recovery process, featuring different characters.
Claire says: “It gives more choice and more insight, and the narrative shows that addiction can happen to anybody. In one film it’s a man, another a woman, another has a mother and son – it really represents a community out there who are experiencing this at any one time.”
I Fall, the first in the trilogy, features a male and female dancer and explores the carnage and chaos of addiction, while I Need is also a two-hander, performed by a dancer and actor, which follows the journey of an addict in the early days of recovery.
The cast of the final film, We Rise – inspired by the late Frank’s verse and exploring the challenges of rehabilitation, includes three dancers with first-hand experience of the subject matter along with Paul, actor and writer Eve Steele and members who attend Fallen Angels’ Liverpool workshops.
“The people we work with make Fallen Angels,” says Claire. “And the people we meet are very talented. Frank was one of those people. He was extraordinary, he had an extraordinary mind, he was very artistic and creative – a creative writer. But he had multiple and complex needs and so many barriers.
“We felt that was just right to be inspired by him.
“The idea around We Rise is that people, through Fallen Angels’ programmes, come together and it’s the unity with others which helps them retain their recovery.
“They might have challenges, but that one time in the week when they’re together, when they’re unified and in that creative glow, they have that moment of bliss which gives them the release and escape that then helps them in their recovery.”
Along with Paul, the creative team working on the three films includes Eve Steele, theatre director John Young – fresh from last summer’s hit Merry Wives of Windsor at Grosvenor Park, film director and producer Dan Thorburn and composer Tom Ashbrook.
And this co-production with Storyhouse isn’t the charity’s only recent collaborative venture.
Last summer Fallen Angels joined eight other recovery-through-arts organisations across the country, remotely, to create a campaign film for International Overdose Awareness Day, with Paul leading on choreography.
Claire says: “We’ve all been working on our own in various parts of the country with arts and recovery.
“Now we’ve managed to build a lot of national relationships through it. It’s amazing and I think those relationships will continue, so that’s really exciting. We want to make art that supports people in recovery from addiction but also gives a platform for their voice and for understanding.
“And in a way you could argue with Transfiguration it’s better, because it’s going to reach more people.”
The three short films are available to watch for free now at storyhouse.com/transfiguration