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Nov 04

I’ve been having great difficulty

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 195 views

I’ve been having great difficulty writing up the amazing Forced Entertainment shows I went to last week. I think this is partly my inarticulacy, but also the difficulty of writing up theatrical presentations that dispense with plot, character, the artifice of “plays”. This is a company that have been going for 20 years with pretty much the same group of performers, Europe loves them, but the Brit “theatrical establishment” wants very little to do with them. Flicking through the guardian’s articles and reviews over the years, they almost all start with “you haven’t heard of them but they’re GREAT” and then dribbles off into a “and then this happened and then this happened and it was pretty” review, which it’s very hard to avoid…

Bloody Mess is the company’s latest piece, and it kind of is (not that that, in and of itself, is a bad thing). I had quite a few problems with it, to be honest. It’s half an hour too long, 2 hours 10 minutes is too much (certainly after three pints of Staropramen) and means certain bits were somewhat flabby and unfocussed, and there are three people too many in it, I’d argue. However, on the opening night, at least half the audience were fresh-faced drama students from the various courses that FE acolytes now teach on and watching them trying to compute what they’d just seen in the bar afterwards was great fun (and took me back to when it was me doing that, and then broadly ripping FE off in everything we did for the following three years). Don’t get me wrong, if it’s coming near you, GO AND SEE IT, I’m just being picky about what is, at times, spellbinding.

All of Forced Ent’s work is about four things: getting pissed, fucking, dying and theatre, and it’s not even about getting pissed and fucking as much as it used to be. The theatre space is a great place to think about mortality though, because of the (ugh) realness. If two blokes are wrestling on the floor for ten minutes they are going to be knackered for the next ten minutes which is going to effect how they perform, no breaks or second takes here. Bloody Mess does feel like an end to a chapter though, like they’ve said everything they can in the standard (well, sort of standard) theatrical time/space.

Which is why I think Marathon Lexicon and it fellow durational pieces are more where the company will spend the next few years (crudely put, they spent the first ten years making theatre and have done half theatre/half durational pieces for the last ten years). Whilst not as exhausting as Quizoola where the performers are having to think on their feet constantly, ML is still a pretty major undertaking for both the audience and performers. I reckon there were 30 or 40 people who were there for the whole day (with lots of others coming and going) and we saw eight hours of lovely, funny, thoughtful, poignant, silly theatre, oh and dizzee rascal who had been performing on CD:UK and was sat in the bar. Some of the pieces were a bit dry and academic, but even some of the “lecture” bits were fascinating in terms of how FE’s vision of theatre has developed, I think it showed them as more in love with theatre (which they are) than most of the more “theatrical” 100 minute pieces.

I also bought this which might help me write about this sort of stuff better in the future…

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