Forced Entertainment: Bloody Mess

19.09.2004

Some people hang around on stage. They look at the audience taking their seats and take a sip from their bottle of mineral water. When the doors have closed one person, who looks like a clown, gets up from his chair, picks up one of the other chairs that are piled up on both sides of the stage and puts them at the front of the stage. Another clown enters from the other side of the stage and starts moving the chairs to the back of the stage.

The two clowns get into some kind of an argument. Whenever one has put some chairs at the front of the stage the other puts them at the back of the stage and vice versa. This goes on for several minutes. It is funny. Very funny. Very very funny. But after a while it gets boring. Very boring. Very very boring. But then it gets funny again. Very funny. So funny that you have to laugh. This is what you do when things are funny, especially when they are very funny, not to mention when they are very very funny. I was laughing my pants off. If only the gorgeous girl sitting next to me had done that.

At some point the clowns appear to have settled their disagreement because all of a sudden there is a row of chairs at the front of the stage. All actors come on stage and take a seat. One by one they introduce themselves with their real names and say what they hope to bring to the performance. A woman says she hopes everybody in the audience will long for her, will want to feel her flesh against theirs. Another woman says that she will be serious throughout the show. But nothing comes of any of this.

A little later the first woman undresses and puts on a gorilla costume and although she keeps dragging on about how she hopes everybody in the audience will think of "me fucking you and you fucking me" her nagging monologues are even less seductive than German railway apparel. Meanwhile the second woman keeps pouring mineral water in a glass after which she throws the water into her face. Sometimes she skips that whole glass thing and just empties the bottle over her head. When she's soaking wet she puts on a dry dress and starts all over again. Throughout the show.

I am not giving away anything by writing all of this down. There’s even more. There are disco lights and a smoke machine. There’s a sound check. There are two roadies and a cheerleader, who looks like your average 50 year old shop assistant in a grocery store. One of the clowns starts to tell the history of the world but he doesn't get far. He doesn't need a guitar. There are two nude guys who perform a little dance hiding their private parts behind silver cardboard stars. There are air guitars and there is a beautiful silence.

The jokes are bad, very bad. The acting, well, just don't call it acting. Every scene lasts just too long. There is no point to any of this. It all amounts to nothing. It makes no sense whatsoever. If you're looking for meaning, go look somewhere else. Everything is repeated once too often. And somehow it all fits together and makes for a brilliant performance. The whole show seems to be drenched in a profound sadness and melancholy. Watching "Bloody Mess" is like one of those moments after a heated argument when you suddenly laugh and wonder what the fuck you were arguing about. It's like one of those moments when, ahh well, whatever.

With "Bloody Mess" Forced Entertainment continue their exploration of what theatre can be and what it takes to make a performance. If the above sounds like a mess, it is, but it takes hard work to create a convincing mess, to make sure that there is no drama and no meaning. They don't just do whatever, or maybe they do, but they are very good at choosing which whatever.

The end. The woman in the gorilla costume says that this is the end of the performance. That one by one the lights will go out, which they do. That she will be the last person on stage that you can see, which she is. But no, she isn’t. The lights go on again and all performers come on stage for a bow. Then they disappear again behind the side wings, only to come back on stage again for another bow. This they do several times depending on the enthusiasm of the audience. As radical and consistent as the rest of the show is, with this final gesture Forced Entertainment shows that they are still firmly rooted in the traditions of theatre.

In one of my own pieces a dancer walks on stage from the audience. The lights are on. The music has already started. Is she late? She continues dancing when the music has already stopped. The lights stay on. At some point she just walks off stage. That's it. How long she remains on stage is up to the dancer and therefore also a surprise to me. The audience applauds but she doesn't return on stage. Did something happen to her? Is she injured? Angry? Frustrated? If you want to leave a blank, leave a blank. Don't add a dot, a question mark or an exclamation mark. If you want to tell the audience to fuck off, tell them to fuck off, but don't tell them afterwards you didn't mean it, that it was only theatre. If you want to make me laugh, make me laugh. If you want to bore me, bore me. But do it good.

Links

Buy the dvd of the performance.

Images courtesy of Forced Entertainment

Category: Theatre