The Thrill of It All

8/05 – 18:00
7, 9, 10/05 – 20:30
EN > NL / FR

For decades already, Forced Entertainment has been one of the most influential performance companies in the world. The deconstruction of both theatre and contemporary city life is a constant in the work of this British collective. Juggling with codes and forms, their work dissects – thoroughly but with humour – our way of life, the way we catch our breath and the manner in which we tell (ourselves) stories in this latecapitalist era. After a number of small-scale side projects, Tim Etchells has rejoined his Sheffield-based collective for an impressive new project with several new performers. Inspired by several recent collaborations, Forced Entertainment will focus on elements which it had ignored in recent years, such as movement, dance and the electronic manipulation of sound and voice. In The Thrill of It All , which will have its world premiere at the Kunstenfestivaldesarts, actors drift about, dancers seem to have lost their bearings, and metaphors become unfounded. Incoherent tunes and distorted voices pay homage to the small things in life. Not to be missed!

Conceived & devised by
Forced Entertainment

Thomas Conway, Amit Hadari,
Phil Hayes, Jerry Killick, Richard Lowdon, Claire Marshall, Cathy Naden, Terry O’Connor, John Rowley

Tim Etchells

Richard Lowdon

Lighting design
Nigel Edwards

Music & sound
John Avery

Choreographic advice
Kate McIntosh

Director’s assistant
Hester Chillingworth

General manager
Eileen Evans

Ray Rennie

Sarah Cockburn

Gareth James

Assistant administration
Natalie Simpson

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Kaaitheater

Forced Entertainment (Sheffield)

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin), PACT Zollverein (Essen), Les Spectacles vivants – Centre Pompidou in collaboration with Festival d’Automne (Paris)

Supported by
Arts Council England, Sheffield City Council

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Conversation between Tim Etchells and Kate McIntosh, Sheffield, March 2010.

KM: What starting points were there from the beginning? I’m assuming that movement was one of those?

TE: Yeah. A desire to move was definitely there from the start. As a group we tend to flipflop between chaotic, quite physical shows and rather more conceptual text-based approaches. So we came to this one in a reaction to the last two works [Spectacular and Void Story], which had been quite minimal.

Another starting point was the music – right now in rehearsals we’re playing a lot of Japanese songs from the 60s, amongst other things. The attraction for me is partly in not understanding the words – the music can function as texture, with all those emotional tones and qualities you get from voice, from singing, but at the same time part of it remains absent for me, missing, blank. I also like that much of what we’re using arises already from an act of appropriation – it’s Japanese pop-cultural reworking of American pop culture. So it feels like we‘re borrowing and reworking something that has already borrowed and reworked.

The other big starting point was the decision to alter the performers voices. This began with the previous project – Void Story – in which, for the first time, we used a lot of treatments on the vocal sounds.

What interests me is that after twenty-odd years of using the voice as a kind of sincerity, we’re suddenly using it as a mask. Void Story broke the pattern – the voices became costumes in fact – and I think with The Thrill of it All we wanted to take that impulse much further – as if the performers could be larger than life in every sense.

KM: How did you start thinking about the body in relation to those voices? It seemed like you went through a few phases of thinking about how the body rises to, or occupies, that voice.

TE: Yeah, that’s been one of the big questions of the project – connections and disconnections of voice and body.

KM: In the early rehearsals I saw, it always seemed interesting to me that there was so much physicality before you ever even heard a voice. So as a viewer you got very familiar with the quite extreme physicalisation of the space before any of the performers say a word.

The other big impression I got from the voices though, was how the way you’re using them has polarised the genders. That in itself has a physical aspect. It’s even tricky to divide things up because once you get used to the voices it has quite a strong effect on your vision. The voice shifts how you actually see the people. It’s, like you say, they’re actually quite masked by the voices.

TE: In Stephen Connor’s book about ventriloquism [Dumbstruck] he says that every voice implies a body. He describes the rise, in the 50’s, of ‘close mic-ing’ for vocal recording – people like Sinatra and so on. This technique effectively created a new kind of voice that people hadn’t heard before. And Connor talks about how it summoned a body, as all voices do – in this case a kind of sensual body, that appeared to be impossibly close to you and at the same time very close to itself, touching itself. He invokes this idea of a ‘vocal body’ that’s larger than life, and I think that really connects to aspects of Thrill.

KM: The other impression I got from rehearsals relates to the gap between the sound of the voice and the content of what it’s talking about. You seem to polarise things again - a very ponderous deep kind of voice talking about fragile sentimental things, or a twittering, sharp, high-pitched birdy voice asking big philosophical questions.

TE: Much of this arises from the childish decision, to turn all the guys voices very deep, to this cliché of preposterously exaggeratedly lumbering masculinity, and at the same time to turn all the women’s voices high and shrill and thin – again in this preposterous cliché of what a woman’s voice might be like, as stereotype. On the mixing desk it’s like two ends of the same dial, simple as that – but through it there’s a set of binaries you get into around constructed masculinity, constructed femininity. I think tangling with these binaries became one of the organising principles of the work. So I’m slowly realising that the guys with their big voices might talk about small things and that the women with their high tiny voices might talk about big weighty topics. This operates on many different levels in the piece, that one’s trying to throw opposites together and let them vibrate in the same space.

KM: It’s interesting because I have quite a strong delight when I hear them talking about bodies. I’ve been trying to unpick why that is. I think I wanted to tie the voice and the body together directly. So I loved it in improvisations when someone would start talking about sweating or crying, or when they’d complain that someone else was smelling. There’s something about the exaggerated voices which for me proposes a sort of hyper-physicalised state as well, a state that I wanted to know more than you can learn just looking at them – you want to hear about the insides of those bodies, to know about the texture and weight of them.

TE: I just wonder if many of the things we are touching on in the work - the separation of the voice from the self, the voice as something that looks back on the body, the body as this failing, fragmented machine – if all these things are connected. It’s even to do with wigs also, the costuming. Perhaps all these things together project an unease about what we are as human beings at this present moment. That the possibility to stand there as this straightforward, no nonsense “I” – to say “I’m here” “I am here” – which I think we’ve used so much in other shows – that the “I am here” isn’t quite happening in this show.

KM: I have the feeling that there’s something about the voice that also makes the people a bit monstrous in a certain way, in the sense that they are fully constructions, and you feel the gaps and the joins in that constructedness. It’s disturbing but also quite fascinating…compelling.

TE: What I can’t work out is the relation between the monstrous, the larger than life, the exaggerated, the fabricated on the one hand, and on the other hand the human, the failing, the trying, the struggling and the joyous – you know, all those things that we can say about the movement. The rehearsals are an odd meeting between those two frames almost, and I wonder quite what we’re reaching for in that as we try to complete the piece.

KM: It seems important also that in this case the dance is not a fully achieved thing, that it’s more about the leaping in, and there’s something very human about the dancing in that way, that the construction doesn’t function in a glossy smooth way at all, it’s very ragged. One of the big impressions I get about the dance is that its raggedness is posed very exactly in relation to the overproduction of the voices. It’s the more human part of the monster…

TE: That’s true.

Based in Sheffield UK, Tim Etchells is Artistic Director of Forced Entertainment as well as an artist and writer pursuing projects of his own in different contexts. Kate McIntosh is a Brussels-based performance maker and contributed movement advice during the process of making The Thrill of it All

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Forced Entertainment is a group of six artists, established in 1984 in Sheffield. For over a quarter of a century, they have been creating theatre performances and other art forms under the artistic direction of Tim Etchells. The collaborative process of their creations has made Forced Entertainment a pioneer in British avant-garde theatre and has given them an international renown. Forced Entertainment’s six regular members share an interest in motion in the theatre, the position of the spectator and the machinations of contemporary urban life. Forced Entertainment’s work is striking and thought-provoking, a breach with theatre conventions and the expectations of the public. The group has toured around the globe with performances such as The World in Pictures (2006), Spectacular (2008) and Void Story (2009).

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