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‘Real Magic’ - absurd British humour by Forced Entertainment company

15:10 01/12/2023

Award-winning experimental performance group Forced Entertainment returns to Brussels with timeless show Real Magic at Théatre 140 on 1 and 2 December.

The Schaerbeek theatre stages the highly-acclaimed English-language comic work first performed by the pioneering Sheffield-based troupe in 2016.  

It’s centred on three characters who alternately compete in a chaotic gameshow, trapped in never-ending rounds of futile questions. Canned laughter from an invisible audience add to this absurd and hallucinatory journey about the desire for change.

Written around the time of the UK’s Brexit vote, director and founder of Forced Entertainment Tim Etchells explains why the show remains relevant.

“It signals the start of an era of feeling politically stuck, whether it be Brexit or Trump or the reaction to the global climate crisis through to the current situation we’re in the middle of right now,” he says.

The three figures on the stage in the work are caught in an internal dilemma, points out Etchells, and “and can’t really figure a way out of it”.

The compelling performance is an example of Forced Entertainment’s collaborative methods and continual exploration of the relationship between the comical and the serious.

Real Magic treads this line of being fabulously absurd and comic; it’s also a nightmare, which is turning between something gleeful and something terrifying. That borderline is something I’m very interested in.”

For the spectator, enjoyment lies in the uncertainty, says Etchells. “This instability is really electric, it’s a joy to do the piece.”

Real Magic Forced Entertainment

He’s keen to refute the idea that performers working in the experimental zone are not great actors. “Watching Richard (Lowdon), Jerry (Killick) and Claire (Marshall), you really get to see how brilliant they are.”

Six years after the show first premiered, he loves to see them in action on stage. “It’s a piece that really allows them to shine, showing how in control they always are. I’m always in awe of what they do.”

With 40 years’ experience as an artist and writer, Etchells is also a professor of performance at Lancaster University. In these socially-and politically-charged times, how does he view the role of performance?

“I think what is interesting is that this art form shares space with other people and brings them together in an encounter with a work.”

This shared experience combined with the risk involved in live performance are motivating factors in his work. “It’s a different experience each time; the fragility of that but also the brilliant electricity keeps me going back to making more projects.”

Forced Entertainment has a long and successful history of touring outside the UK; an experience that has enabled the company to thrive. The appetite in Europe for experimental work is important to Etchells.

“Britain remains a very literary culture and theatre is expected to be about what a writer has to tell us. We really love coming to mainland Europe and finding other ways of thinking about what theatre can be.”

The company has always had a special relationship with Belgium, dating from its early days as a company touring in the late 1980s. “We recognised something in the landscape here and also in the sense of humour. Theres quite a deep connection with British humour, Belgium felt like a home from home.”

One reason for Forced Entertainment’s success on the continent is the frequent use of sparse and simple language in its repertorie, as is the case with Real Magic. “It translates easily and is more accessible to audiences,” says Etchells.

Alongside the show’s Brussels rerun, the director is currently collaborating with the Flemish company NTGent in another absurd performance piece How Goes the World. The eagerly-anticipated work premiered in November and runs again in Ghent in February before touring internationally.

Real Magic
1 & 2 December, 20.00
Théâtre 140
Avenue Eugène Plasky 140
Schaerbeek. Sorry! Our prize giveaway has now closed and the winners have been notified.

Written by The Bulletin