by Forced Entertainment Tour to 24 November 2011.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 2 November at Warwick Arts Centre Coventry.
Intriguing story-time stripped of most components.
The Forceds are with us again, and this time their title, as well as the company’s name, offers a hostage to the disenchanted (‘Entertainment – you’d have to be forced to watch it’; ‘Avoid this so-called story’). Yet their new show is full of story. The only thing is that the story is void of most of the things that usually flesh narratives out.
For Forced Entertainment, it’s restrained and brief. Four people sit at lamplit desks either side of the stage, and read a story. But the story they’re telling is a graphic novel. Images appear on a large screen, showing the events described. So, as live actors (apparently) read scripts, drawn figures enacting events.
It’s a macabre tale, beginning with a man and woman staring from a window in a mass block of flats. It’s soon clear their window looks out onto a decayed, dangerous city. And their own outlook’s no better; danger soon bangs on the door – leading to an escape into an impenetrable forest with a bear and giant insects, a hut whose owner involves them in his nefarious work and oblivion as the narration inconclusively ends.
There’s no character; events are simply attributed to figures as two-dimensional in the voices they’re given as in their images, which lack definition. Nothing invites us to respond to them as people; they are mere functions of the narrative.
Which means they are at the story’s convenience. One character is shot several times; blood is heard seeping from her, in one of the sounds heard during the performance. Yet within a moment, Tom and Jerry style, she’s up and running. So is he, moments after tearing skin and bone in a mantrap.
This is a company that is relentless, even in its more comic productions. The story here just goes on. But writer/director Tim Etchells and his regular company continue to achieve a remarkable energy and inventiveness. They’re demanding but often rewarding.
While other pioneer companies have been overtaken by new creatives on the block, Etchells and co. remain an individual collective voice: a Forced to be reckoned with.
Performers: Robin Arthur, Richard Lowdon, Cathy Naden, Terry O’Connor.
Photo-collages performers: Rajani Shah, Chrisn Williams, Kaya Freeman, Nigel Edwards, Jim Fletcher, Blob Clarke, Will Waghorn, Vlatka Horvat.
Director/Images: Tim Etchells.
Designer: Richard Lowdon.
Lighting: Nigel Edwards.
Sound/Music: John Avery.