FORCED ENTERTAINMENT (THE THEATRE COMPANY, NOT A UNIVERSITY LECTURE…)

Yesterday I had the good fortune of seeing the British theatre company Forced Entertainment https://www.forcedentertainment.com here in Barcelona’s CCCB… and for just 7 euros!!! What a luxury, and what a beautiful way to close the great experience that teaching contemporary British theatre has been this semester. In case you’ve never heard of them, Tim Etchell’s company specialises in post-dramatic theatre, which is a trendy, vague way of calling shows which refuse to follow rules regarding plot or characterisation (perhaps ‘anti-drama’ would be a better label?). The one I saw, Spectacular, had two actors on stage: a very nice man wearing a skeleton mask and disguise, which suggest he is death one way or another, and a woman. She ‘dies’ in absolute agony for most of the show as he softly tells the audience how the performance is not at all progressing as usual. This lasted for about 80 minutes, more or less like a university lecture, and this is why I thought that ‘forced entertainment’ is an ironic label that applies to performing as fitly as to teaching. Who is forced? I’m not so sure…

To my surprise about 10 members of the audience (150 in total?) left in the middle of the show (in two separate groups, I mean). They were not entertained, forcefully or otherwise. I was glad then that students don’t do that (but I also wondered how long will it be before they catch the habit… now they go to the bathroom at least once). I myself managed not to look at my watch, always a good sign that I’m having a good time at the theatre, though I saw others doing it. One of my students, by the way, was there, earning extra points, but she left too fast for me to chat with her about the show. I did chat with my companions, two doctoral students who specialise in contemporary British drama, and we agreed that some forms of entertainment entail hard work –not as you’re entertained but in preparation for the kind of entertainment you’re being offered. We found the show funny, witty and deep and apparently so did many in the audience who cheered, clapped and even bravoed the actors (poor Claire, dying hard for so long…) As I walked out of CCCB, however, I heard a young man complain to his mates that a friend had conned him by promising that Forced Entertainment were the best company in the world. “Fancy what the worst must be like,” he quipped. At least he had stayed the whole show through.

Again: why put up with something not meant for you? I am not saying you should enjoy Forced Entertainment. I believe their name is an open, ironic acknowledgement that audiences sometimes put themselves through very odd experiences in their search for entertainment and/or enlightenment. What I’m saying is that none should force themselves to take up something they don’t enjoy, whether this is postdramatic theatre or a degree in English, with plenty of Literature.

So: find whatever you enjoy, do enjoy it and don’t spoil other people’s pleasure in what they love. There you are: today’s message.

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