December 2014 | Barbican Pit Theatre
Forced Entertainment offer their first show for young audiences, and while their trademark performance style and signature elements remain true to form the piece lacks the relevant adjustments for a more demanding audience.
The story itself carries the audience through a strange house while ‘you’ search for a lost doodle-drawn spider for a small drawn girl in a book. Throughout the journey we confront various creatures, birds, dancing soldiers and a rhino among many, all projected with semi-crude drawings onto cardboard which, combined with a keyboard and microphone has a rough but imaginative quality that can often be more successful than fully realised set pieces (like the brilliant Het Filaal’s Miss Ophelia). Rambling through this world has the quirky substance of a child telling a story: why a Rhino? Why did the mouse give a pointless key, isn’t that a hole in the story?
Richard Lowdon and Cathy Naden throw in the usual ‘FE’ traits; battling for attention, a microphone as a device of status, relishing in the void as much as activity and allowing the performer to be exposed beyond character. But what they use to experiment and provoke adult audiences is a questionable environment for children.
Not that any company should treat young audiences differently. The most successful shows work for both adults and children, in the way that Paper Cinema captivate all ages, or how Told By an Idiot treat everybody with the same silliness, it’s only counterproductive to approach theatre-making differently for other age groups, but FE needed a game changer in this respect. The pacing never changes, the dynamic of the performers never come to a head and what may have child’s logic is hard pressed to entertain other children.
But there is an irony and charm in this: Lowdon becomes a parent, and the oddness also has the sweet naiveté, ‘weird sounds’ make the backing track but discovering ‘weird sounds’ reflects the process, which the audience is always aware of in FE shows. Isn’t Spectacular about re-educating adult audiences about theatre? And what/who are the audiences of The Notebook, in which the words are pinnacle and the action minimal, when they are enthralled like children at storytime? Or should it be the opposite like the total and mesmerising The Last Adventures?
As a loyal fan of the company I appreciated the work but am uncertain of whether it has reached their target in this particular piece. But the company are too wise to set up a mere categorical endeavor and try and be perfect. That’s not what live performance is about.
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- Waiting For Godot | Sydney Theatre Company - July 20, 2015
- Little Shop of Horrors | Live Live Cinema - July 12, 2015
- A Mad World My Masters | English Touring Theatre and RSC - June 6, 2015
- Betrayal: A Polyphonic Crime Drama | I Fagiolini - June 6, 2015
- The Possible Impossible House | Forced Entertainment - February 26, 2015
- Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 | Royal Shakespeare Company - February 26, 2015
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It) | Dmitri Krymov Lab - December 20, 2014
- Crazy In Love | A Conspiracy of Clowns (South Africa) - October 27, 2014