Tim Etchells on virtuosity

£2

Suggested Donation

£
Personal Info

Terms

Donation Total: £2.00

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

Mostly we cultivate a certain kind of mundanity on the stage: the idea that the performance is being built in front of you, here and now, using very basic materials, in quite easy to understand ways. Things build up over a piece; a language is established in the beginning and it becomes more complex. The raw material initially is quite basic and the moves that the performers make on it are quite basic as well. We often chose to start from a deliberately difficult or unpromising position. A good example is an early Forced Entertainment piece Club of No Regrets in which a set of scenes are enacted by two performers. In the first enactments of the scenes they’re parcel taped to chairs so they can’t move and their mouths are parcel taped shut. You can’t really hear what they’re saying but they’ve got their little papers with the scenes on, so you sort of understand that they’re enacting these fragmentary dramas. It’s as far from virtuoso as it could get! We make a deliberately unpromising proposal at the beginning – something dramatically minimal, even stunted – but over time the performers are cut out of the chairs, they ‘memorise’ the lines from the papers, they start to perform them more, music comes in to support them and the theatrical energy and power of the piece builds. It’s about journey and about using simple building blocks. We start from a much more ‘here and now’ sort of situation and in that sense we try to look not very virtuosic, much more amateur – as if the work is simply thrown together. It’s ironic though, as I was saying before – if you look at the work we’ve done over thirty-four years: often minutely scoring endless hours of performance and getting to the point where we can reconstruct very complex improvisations involving ten people with sound and light and make it look like it’s just happening, here and now – there is of course a huge virtuosity in that. It’s just a kind of virtuosity that hides itself.

There’s a really good interview with Stewart Lee where he talks about how he thinks of himself as writer but he does all of his work as a writer trying to make what he does not look or sound like writing at all. It should look like he’s just standing there saying whatever comes into his head and, if it doesn’t seem like that, then he thinks he’s not doing a good job. There’s often a similar sense in our own work: most of the effort goes into trying to make things look like they’re just happening – all of the hard work, the real virtuoso work, is done achieving that.

12am: Awake & Looking Down. Photo by Hugo Glendinning
Read the full interview here.

£2

Suggested Donation

£
Personal Info

Terms

Donation Total: £2.00

Tim Etchells on storytelling

£2

Suggested Donation

£
Personal Info

Terms

Donation Total: £2.00

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

We have a questioning attitude to story and storytelling – especially since we don’t make work that’s particularly character or narrative based. It’s not that there is an objection to story as such, it’s just that we have an understanding of story as one of the ways that theatre tends to organise itself, not the only one. Literary theatre often ties it’s meaning to narrative structures – neat and argumentative, where we’ve always been interested in structures that are more like music or architecture, structures in the work that are more like pattern or emotional journey or textural journey. In many ways our work has as much in common with dance or music or visual art performance as it does with theatre, if you think of theatre as literary theatre.

That said, I think very often we’ve dealt with story as a material but we’ve tended to think about story pluralistically: why do you only have to have one?! I think a lot of our work is based on the idea that what you’ve got on stage is a machine for generating many stories or different possibilities for stories. One of the things that the audience is doing I think is linking things together and making connections. Some of the pieces we have made have a raw material that is very narratively charged and we work by combining and recombining that material. I’m thinking about relatively early but quite important works like Club of No Regrets or 12am: Awake & Looking Down. The latter has hundreds of named characters who’s names are written on cardboard placards and the performers change costumes constantly and appear as all these characters. It’s theatre as dressing up box. There’s no story but in a sense, as all of these figures move past each other, a kind of kaleidoscopic narrative happens: Elvis Presley goes this way and A Nine Year Old Shepherd Boy goes that way and just for one moment you’re thinking, “On what mountain side did they meet?” And then it’s gone. I think we like that idea of the stage as a space that generates story but we don’t like to get locked into telling one.

E.M. Forster gives a great bit of advice to novelists which is “only connect”. Of course we have time for that impulse but I think we’re also interested in the idea of ‘also disconnect’. What happens when you put things down on the stage that don’t belong together and leave them like that? As an audience or watcher you’re then forced to somehow reconcile those things.

12am: Awake & Looking Down. Photo by Hugo Glendinning
Read the full interview here.

£2

Suggested Donation

£
Personal Info

Terms

Donation Total: £2.00