Cooled Down Space

12 Jan

There is a cooled-down space in durational performance (like Quizoola) where things happen that can’t take place in a short, fully scripted theatre show. A kind of gentle, almost tepid, inviting-in. More like being in a gallery, or perhaps a cafe on a rainy day, than in a fourth-wall theatre show. After last night’s performance of Exquisite Pain, which is also a kind of cumulative experience rather than what one might think of as “dramatic”, the performer Robin spoke of Forced Entertainment’s turn towards these simple, pared down shows, after a testing time for the company.

They’d been doing full-scale theatrical, prop-filled, shows like Bloody Mess with tons of action, and the relationship with the audience had started to become “difficult”. He spoke of the frustration of facing off with an audience; the recurring question (from the performers’ point of view) of “what do you want”? The company went through a time of getting “ridiculously aggressive” with audiences (as Cathy put it). This seems to me to connect again to what their writer/director Tim Etchells calls an ethics of witnessing— calling on audiences to take responsibility for being there, for what they see.

Anyway, Robin said that the pendulum swing (and in 24 years of working together, there are phases, ebbs and flows) to durational and less “theatrical” performance was welcome for them, that it unexpectedly opened a space for a different kind of relationship with the audience, more of a co-presence while something happened rather than, as he put it with a certain wryness, audiences resenting performers for making them watch and performers resenting audiences for making them do.

I loved their performance last night of Exquisite Pain, which was very simply staged— two actors, each sitting at a desk, reading from a script. For me it was a very musical experience, akin to listening to Arvo Part. The cool accumulation and sense of variation-within-repetition was meditative. It was a way of being in a room with performers and their material (and inevitably, one’s own) that was like slowly filling a jug with water. I left full and quiet. ( More on the actual show next post.)


2 Responses to “Cooled Down Space”

  1. Rick Massimo January 12, 2007 at 9:44 pm #

    I wish you’d gotten to see Meatballs/Fluxus; they were so much like what FE seems to be about, though a little more kookily absurdist and sometimes with great music.

    How much do you know about Fluxus in general? (Not that I’m any expert …)

  2. xtine3 January 14, 2007 at 5:48 pm #

    I’d love to hear more about them!

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