Tim Etchells on transformation

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

Again, I have a certain cynicism about the term, just as I might be cynical about virtuosity or imagination – a terrible admission perhaps! There’s something rather soft about it, a bit gooey!

What does interest me though is the transformation of materials and actions and experience over time: how understanding and perception change in and through the course of performance. Even when things stay the same they are changing. That’s why we work so much, over the years, with repetition.

It’s been a fantasy of ours for a long time, to make a work where all the materials are basically trash: nothing of any cultural importance, no statements of importance, no important anything, just lightweight stuff basically. But the desire is to arrange the rubbish in such a way that it becomes extremely strong – to make it sing, and really powerfully. The material for Real Magic is basically trash: a little scene from some half-arsed game show, about twenty seconds long in it’s shortest iteration. But we work that material fearlessly and we make something that has punch and a poetry, reach and ambition. I like the idea that the strength of what you’re doing in performance comes from the performance, from what’s done, rather than being a predetermined thing arising from the material. Everyone knows King Lear is important, or Three Sisters – I don’t want to borrow or lean on their significance. I’m more interested to make my own.

Real Magic. Photo by Hugo Glendinning
Read the full interview here.

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Tim Etchells on duality

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

In much of the Forced Entertainment work and in my solo practice there are moments, events, scenes, actions and texts that effectively refuse to confirm themselves as one thing or another: it’s funny but it’s not at all funny, or it’s extremely aggressive and extremely apologetic at the same time. We often, I think very deliberately, put these things in a close proximity – creating work that pushes and pulls an audience member at the same time, in two directions.

We don’t mind moments in shows where everybody laughs but we’re also quite known for those moments where a few people are laughing and other people are annoyed with them because they’re laughing. We like the tension that comes from this kind of duality.

At one level, for me, the work sets out to create situations or feelings or exchanges that aren’t reconcilable. Something is profoundly not finished or unbalanced or unanswered in what we’re doing. There’s a problematic lack of resolution in what you’re left with. A key understanding about art making for me is that it’s not so much about making statements as it is about opening space. It’s about wanting to leave the audience with a problem rather than solving it. I mean that’s Brecht of course – no catharsis, leave people questioning.

Dirty Work (The Late Shift). 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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Tim Etchells on imagination

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

My first thought is that I don’t have any! We make things by doing them. Our capacity to imagine in advance any of the things that we have made is extremely limited. Mostly what happens in the rehearsal process is that I will make a proposition or a set of propositions and something will happen in the space in response – improvisation, investigation through action. The responses also include the performer’s creative mishearing of what I’ve asked them to do. So it always, in any case, exceeds our ‘ideas’. In any process I’d say ninety per cent of what we do is trash but maybe ten per cent, if we’re lucky, is worth hanging on to. That’s how the work emerges. I’m very interested in this idea that the work comes from being in a room with people who are doing things – it doesn’t come from me sitting down at home and writing it – it doesn’t come from anybody drawing it – it comes from being in a room with bodies and action, argument, conversation and doing. It’s social. It’s material. It’s tangible. Text in our pieces tends to grow this same way too. There are a few of the performances here and there, where there’s been a basis in writing, but mostly text comes out of the room, it doesn’t get made separately.

We have a big habit of using found things, i.e. when you see Forced Entertainment’s work it’s not a question of “Oh my Lord, I would never have thought that such a thing was possible!” It much more like, “Oh my god, they’re doing that, I’ve seen that already so many times!” So Real Magic enacts a fragment of some very bad game show or cabaret routine and even if you haven’t seen it, you feel like you have. It’s generic. Off the peg. Very often, in the work, there’s a sort of redundancy, almost a lack of imagination at one level. I’m aware that in one sense we always want to do the most unimaginative and boring thing, not the radical, flight of fancy image. That sense of limit is really important in the work, it’s not orgiastic, free self-expression. The work is made in relation to our culture that’s already full of images and actions and we’re often picking them up and trying to animate them. There’s a limit, a language, a set of givens that we are negotiating.

If I’m teaching writing, I meet a lot of people who are obsessed with the idea that it’s about expressing themselves in a language that comes from themselves, i.e. writing is a kind of internal, deep sea diving process. By contrast I think of writing, at least in good part, as a process of repeating, echoing, speaking and passing through voices that come from other places. I think about the way that, when you speak, it’s hard to speak without your parents speaking through you, without your teachers speaking through you, without the movies that you’ve watched or the computer games that you’ve played speaking through you, without your friends speaking through you, without all the crap you’ve watched on television or the internet speaking through you. I have a sense of the person as a meeting point of other signals rather than just ‘themselves’ – my voice is mine, but it’s also a kind of switching station.

Bloody Mess. Photo by Hugo Glendinning
Read the full interview here.

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