Tim Etchells on play / games / rules

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This is an extract from an interview with Tim Etchells, Artistic Director of Forced Entertainment – read the full interview here.

We shy away from narrative because, mostly, we find it boring and instead we think about structuring time in front of the audience in different ways. One of the structures we refer to a lot is the idea of game play and working within rules. I think that’s partly because if you establish a set of rules and operate within them, making them visible, then an audience can very quickly latch on to them – they see what you’re playing with, they see the rules and therefore understand the decisions you’re making, and what your choices mean. The performance Quizoola!, comprises two thousand questions written down and in it the performers take turns to ask them of each other. The answers are always improvised and answers can be short or long, truthful or not truthful. You only have to watch two minutes of that performance and you understand already how the whole thing works. So as an audience member you’re immediately in on the game and you can see how different performers are contracting, expanding, pushing and running within the rules of the system that we’re establishing. I think a lot of the Forced Entertainment pieces work that way – we let people in on the workings of the pieces so that spectators can judge and think along with us. Making the rules clear allows the audience into the space of the piece in a different way.

I find it very hard to get involved with narrative tension. It’s hard to persuade me that there is any tension, in theatre especially: this person’s going to leave this person or is going to kill this person… it’s a play! I’m more interested in that business of watching two people make moves in a game. For me performance has more in common with watching sport or watching games, even chess. You see people making moves, you understand the framework they’re making them in and you get involved because you want to see how the game plays out. It’s a different tension than narrative.

Club of No Regrets. Photo by Hugo Glendinning
Read the full interview here.

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Tim Etchells on chaos

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This is an extract from an interview with Tim Etchells, Artistic Director of Forced Entertainment – read the full interview here.

Chaos is the order that you weren’t expecting! That’s what my 19 year old son tells me. I’m not sure that there is such a thing as chaos really. Any set of actions in time and space has a structure. It might not be easy to see at first glance. But it’s always there. Pattern and structure are always present.

Of course there are plenty of moments in our performances that look chaotic. Many times there will be material created in improvisation where a number of performers are working, making their own decisions in a kind of friction with each other: some striking off in this direction, others going in that direction. It’s a very complex interaction and when you look at it, it can appear chaotic – hard to map or contain. But in the theatre works we tend to control that kind of chaos very carefully. So chaos tends to be a recreation rather than anything really out of hand – we study the video recordings of the rehearsals and recreate the best of them, move for move, line for line. Someone once observed that the things that look most chaotic in our pieces are often the most completely and precisely choreographed. We’re very interested in that texture – that feeling that the eye doesn’t know where to rest, that the centre is missing, you see it, in shows like Real MagicThe Last Adventures or Bloody Mess or even the new one Out of Order, but we know we couldn’t improvise those every night in the theatre (it’s too unpredictable). So the only way that we can get anything to look out of control and multi-directional is via choreographing the most dynamic of the improvisations – scoring them in relation to the video and then working on notation and mechanical repetition. It’s acting – making it look real when it isn’t, making time flow, but controlling it somehow. Chaos on stage is, by its nature, perhaps slightly oxymoronic!

Out of Order. Photo by Hugo Glendinning
Read the full interview here.

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