THE COMING STORM
by Tim Etchells and Forced Entertainment.
Tour to 16 November.
Runs 1hr 55min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 June at bac (Ballroom) London.
Tall story building where the story becomes its own story.
Forced Entertainment divides the world (or its audiences) into two, each emphasising one word of their name. Those who are entertained keep coming back. Those who find themselves forced to watch something that deliberately fails to offer what theatre should, flee, never to be seen again.
According to their latest show the company believes they can tell a good story. It opens with a long list of necessary ingredients spoken quietly into a microphone. This remains incomplete as another actor takes the mike, with the first of many “Thank you”s by which speakers politely indicate disagreement or scorn for their predecessor’s contribution.
Then a story starts, using many aspects of ‘a good story’ as just defined, yet turned into a luridly improbable amalgam. And so it proceeds, as the initial line-up of six actors decomposes into individuals preoccupied with their own narratives, sometimes paired, but with little sense of purpose beyond their current routine.
That bad fiction cliché, ‘a dark and stormy night’, never actually arrives. These are potential stories, good or bad, storms coming but never breaking. Theatricality is also cut adrift. Most of the costumes on rails either side of the stage remain unused. Grotesque wigs and masks are worn. A crocodile attack on one performer ends with the croc head removed and operated perfunctorily by its actor. An actor never finds the character he’s looking for in others’ stories.
Movement is reduced to clichéd, repetitive patterns. A drumkit is shifted and taken apart, a piano used for simple repetitious chords before being deconstructed along with the idea of narrative.
It’s a theatrical tour de Forced and shows the continuing fertility of director Tim Etchells in the company’s continuing examination of story and theatre, while the actors present the most extravagant and ridiculous (a one-man forest, for example) with the quiet calm of a routine day at the office. There’s nothing like it anywhere else. Yet, the many segments leave a suspicion it could all be said more economically, and the continuing cut-offs ask whether the company could go further and just tell a good story, if forced.
Cast: Robin Arthur, Phil Hayes, Richard Lowdon, Claire Marshall, Cathy Naden, Terry O’Connor.
Director: Tim Etchells.
Designer: Richard Lowdon.
Lighting: Nigel Edwards.
Music: Phil Hayes, Forced Entertainment.
Music consultant: John Avery.
24 October 7.45pm Lyceum Theatre Sheffield 0114 249 6000 www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk
29-30 October 8pm Nuffield Theatre Lancaster 01524 594151 www.liveatlica.org
2 November 7pm New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich 01473 295900 www.wolseytheatre.co.uk
6-7 November 7.30pm Warwick Arts Centre Coventry 024 7652 4524 www.warwickartscentre.co.uk
14-16 November 8pm Contact Manchester 0161 274 0600 www.contactmcr.com