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Void Story (Tour - Manchester)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Despite having worked together to make performance for the last 27 years, Forced Entertainment show no signs of creative fatigue. Unusually for a company who appear to have spent a large part of their career dismantling the idea of narrative, their new show Void Story follows the story of Kim and Jackson, a couple attempting to navigate some nightmarish version of our society following being evicted from their apartment.  
With four performers behind two desks for the duration of the show, Void Story is in part a radio play. The rudimentary sound effects and unemotional characters voices are all produced live from these stations with the aid of microphones, laptops and a sound board.  A large screen at the back of the stage shows projected images of the ‘action’: distressed, black & white graphics that are suitably distorted for such a seemingly dystopian tale.
The performers’ delivery of the text is dry, deadpan and loaded with irony. Remaining unemotional in the most extreme of circumstances, there is real dark humour in places as the actors reading from their scripts keep a healthy distance from their fated characters. Nigel Edwards’ lighting design furthers this notion, using subtle spotlighting to isolate the areas onstage from each other.

Though the imagined world of Void Story is brutal and unstable in the extreme, mentions of gun-crime, recession and anti-depressants evoke a shadowy sense of the present. Tim Etchells’ text feels like a dark tale for dark times, but one that’s told with a knowing smile.    

As with all of Forced Entertainment’s work, this piece is certain to divide audiences. It is a unique and experimental production that sets up its own conventions in the beginning and sticks to them until the bitter end. On the night I attended, I overheard mixed audience reactions regarding the length of the piece and its entertainment value.

And that’s the point: that as long as their work is eliciting reaction, thought and debate then Forced Entertainment are fulfilling their goal of making performances that “challenge, question” and “court confusion”, all the while cementing their place in the theatrical landscape as world renowned innovators.   

Oh, and for what it’s worth, I liked it.

- Sara Cocker


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