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‘Forced Entertainment has been pulling the rug from under theatregoers’ feet for 20 years... they’re not about to stop confounding conventions or exploding audience expectations.’ The Times November 2004

‘What is refreshing about Forced Entertainment is that, even after all this time, it is playing with theatre... searching for new metaphors.’ New Statesman November 2004

‘One of the greatest British theatrical exports of the past 20 years... It is (their) ability to smash through the pretences of theatre that has kept the company ahead of the game.’ The Guardian October 2004

‘The best group of stage actors in Britain.’ Financial Times October 2004

‘With its new definitions of contemporary political theatre, Sheffield based Forced Entertainment has over the years become one of the most important performance groups in Europe.’ Der Tagesspiegel January 2003

‘Acollective with a reputation as one of Europe’s leading experimental companies.’ The Big Issue

‘One of the most influential new British theatre companies of the last 20 years.’ The Guardian February 2001

‘Forced Entertainment are probably the most influential performance group working in Britain today.’ City Life November 2001

‘Their particular style of theatre is almost impossible to categorise, with each piece linked only to a profound sense of poetic melancholy and a desperate desire to make sense of modern life.' The Big Issue December 2000

‘An enormously influential creative force.’ Time Out

‘Fearless purveyors of the best in radical theatre and urban mythologies.’ The Guardian

‘Loaded with charm and integrity... At the sharp end of the nation’s cultural selfexpression.’ Financial Times

'My guiding principle is to wait and see.' (Etchells in Giannachi and Luckhurst, 1999: 25)

'our work is tied to objects and particular places and spaces. (...) In the absence of starting from a text, we find clues in absolutely everything, from the space to the costumes, to actions people might come up with, even something they just saw in a shop or objects people left behind in the rehearsal studio.' (ibid.: 25-6)

what is theatre?

'Is it standing in front of a group of people who want you to do something?

Why do people desire to see someone else perform?

What is the performer's responsibility towards that?

What is the fictional side of ourselves?'

(ibid.: 26)

Frozen Palaces (1997)

This piece, developed by Tim Etchells, photographer Hugo Glendinning with Forced Entertainment [link] is written on CD-ROM and created with QTVR

The setting is a house seen in what appears to be the aftermath of a party. 'The stillness is posed as a psychic problem' and 'the viewer alone is free to move' (Etchells, 1999: 54)

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The viewer has missed the event and can only interpret its traces. 'The bullet has been shot, the corpse has bled, the party has long finished, the levitation performed, the sex is done' (Heathfield in Glendinning, Etchells and Forced Entertainment, 2000: 22)

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Peggy Phelan remarks: 'the event that comprises the dramatic action has occurred before the spectator's arrival. History has already happened and the spectator-witness is left to decipher its elusive causes and meanings' (in Sommer 2002: 304).

Frozen Palaces 'gestures toward what is at stake, philisophically, in collapsing the boundary between the alive and the mediated' (ibid.: 303)

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(for Phelan's theory of presence see also [link])

For a review of the piece by Andrew Kimbrough also published in Postmodern Culture see [link]

Nightwalks (1998)

An interactive urban journey on CD-ROM developed by Tim Etchells with the photographer Hugo Glendinning and Forced Entertainment. The piece was created with QTR (Quick Time Virtual Reality) using photographs to build panoramic landscapes in which the screen can be turned through 360 degrees.

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Nightwalks allows the viewer to move across the streets of a 'fragmented' nocturnal city (Forced Entertainment 1998b). 'By clicking on specific images of objects or people, the viewer may move through the virtual environment and search for a narrative.'

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'The predominant colour, the patina of sepia light gives the impression of being inside an old photograph, as if what is seen belongs in the past. By moving around the streets and looking for hidden dangers, as if the viewers themselves were walking down those alleys, a series of potential clues that allow access to other places are found.'

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We see

an abandoned car park

distant city lights

an unconscious male figure, slumped in front of a lamp-post

a scarf abandoned on a pavement

a couple stealing a secret kiss

a winged, angel-like female figure suspended against a wall

a man waiting

a drunken half-dressed figure with the head of a pantomime horse

Nightwalks is a 'distorted portrait of England and a catalogue of forgotten locations of an imaginary film' in which people acquire 'the status of objects - strange clues to be found and connected in the otherwise deserted streets' (Forced Entertainment 1998b)

Paradise (1998)

An internet project developed by Forced Entertainment and commissioned by Love Bytes/Channel which can be seen at from the mixed-media gallery installation Ground Plans for Paradise (1994).

Paradise consists of an imaginary city containing 1,000 named buildings accessible via a system of maps and street indexes. The public could write their characters and stories within the buildings.

Paradise is a hybrid novel with 1,000 chapters or a poem with 1,000 verses [link].

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Paradise is the plan for a deserted metropolis, waiting to be filled. Each of its one thousand imaginary buildings is the location for some untold story, some unspoken dialogue, some as-yet-unmade theory, some unscrawled poem, some unlived life. (...) Paradise invites you to explore - read its stories, search its streets. Paradise invites you to write - to fill its buildings, write its dreams.' (Forced Entertainment, 1998a)

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Some of these texts are extracted from Gabriella Giannachi's Virtual Theatres: an Introducton [link]

Images by kind permission of Tim Etchells, Hugo Glendinning and Forced Entertainment.


For an online interview with Tim Etchells by Caridad Svich see [link]