Forced Entertainment looking for the thrill of it all

 

Forced Entertainment. How fitting can a name of a theatre company be? Whoever buys a ticket for The thrill of it all will know what I mean. It’s entertainment. And it’s forced. It’s funny and it’s not. It’s a performance that is applying the rules of entertainment and at the same time is taking them apart. It was one of the first premieres of this year’s Kunstenfestivaldesarts (Brussels), which will present some 30 projects at several theatres during the month of May.

Fake plastic palm trees. That’s the first thing you notice, when you take your seat. Then the performers walk on stage and you see their goofy costumes and their silly wigs. They start dancing to kitschy Japanese cocktail music. When the song is over, a new one starts and those five man and four women continue dancing. In a wacky way.  Comedians trying to be ballroomdancers. Just when you think you’ve had enough, they do another song.

It’s one of the underlying principles of this performance: playing with time, expectations and conventions. It’s as if Forced Entertainment is trying to find out if there’s some beauty to the concept of tediousness. One of the actresses welcomes you to the rollercoaster The thrill of it all is supposed to be, but quite soon you know that this is a rollercoaster with many stops. Later on an actor is asked to do something funny, and of course, all the things he comes up with aren’t funny at all. Thát kind of jokes.

The fact that effects are put on their voices, gives an extra edge to their performance: all of the women talk in a high pitch voice, the men have deep voices. The women sound alike and the men do as well. What more is there to say? Forced Entertainment comes up with lots of different scenes, referring to lots of clichés and conventions. It’s as if they pick them up, show them to you, shake them a bit, question them, and put them down again. One of the men confesses he’s fallen in love with one of the members of the audience. Another guy tells the other actors he can’t perform tonight because he’s too depressed to give a happy performance. Somebody tells a story, to be interrupted by somebody else asking for the moral of that story. Somewhere in the beginning you see The end already. And  somewhere along this rollercoasterride going wrong somebody gets a heartattack.

Forced Entertainment? I told you so. It’s done in a very clever way but it will certainly not be everyone’s cup of tea.

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