Young audiences

Young audiences
Calendrier 50e édition
Grille tarifaire
Supplément journal Le Monde
Never Sleep - Tim Etchells - Neon 2015 - © Maciej Zakrzewski

Portrait Forced Entertainment

Founded in 1984 in Sheffield, with its artistic director, Tim Etchells, at the helm, the Forced Entertainment collective is a pioneer figure in contemporary theatre. Taking its inspiration from pop culture as much as from a dialogue with other art forms, what characterizes the work of the collective is its robust sense of humour and subtle critique of the world of the spectacle. A frequent guest at the Festival since 2007, this Portrait gives audiences the opportunity to rediscover an extraordinary body of work. It is one which constantly experiments with the mechanism of performance in the aim of reactivating its capacity for enchanting audiences.
Forced Entertainment has been programmed at the Festival d’Automne on numerous occasions over the course of the last fifteen years. What does this Portrait dedicated to your work mean to you?
Tim Etchells: I am very enthusiastic about it. It is always an interesting experience for us to be able to perform several shows within the same framework because it enables audiences to sample the diversity of our work and to discover older pieces that they might not have seen. It is a tremendous opportunity for us.
How did you set about choosing which shows to perform?
Tim Etchells: We try to come up with a wide range of shows, on different scales, by adopting various strategies and formats. Certain shows have never been performed in Paris, others were performed a long time ago. What we seek to do is to raise audience awareness in relation to new aspects of our work, but also to perform re-runs of productions which have previously been performed in Paris.
Is there a common thread linking together these various shows?
Tim Etchells: I suppose that they are all based upon a very elementary understanding of the present situation and the dynamic of theatre. We think about what it is to share the space and time with the audience, and to carry out a dramatic representation before them. In terms of aesthetics, our work is often of the artisanal kind. The aim is to reduce the situation into something which is very human, and to explore theatrical exchange in terms of its fragility and playfulness. Within this fragility and insistence upon a direct exchange over the course of the representation, there is a political dimension. Another common thread is our attempt to find radical solutions to the question of exactly what is theatrical representation. In many of our works, one single idea becomes the driving force behind the whole evening. It is about taking a single gesture, and then exploring it in depth. Our wish is to embark audiences on a journey around one simple proposition.
The six Forced Entertainment actors have been working together for over thirty-five years. To what extent is the creative work of the company a collective one?
It has always been a collective project and this is very much still the case. The long-lasting nature of this collaboration is quite unique. I think that it grows stronger and stronger over time. We are the collective owners of the company’s artistic property and all the major decisions are taken collectively. Generally speaking, I direct and often write the text. That said, however, my role is often just to listen and then to try to organise the group’s propositions. From out of this collective process comes the dynamism and tension that make our work what it is. The way in which we create our shows is not a simple one because the process of negotiation behind them is never-ending. Each of us pulls the work in different directions, but this usually results in more clarity in the end.
Do you think that the shows will resonate in different ways in view of the present-day context?
Strangely enough, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the mere fact of doing theatre in September will take on a whole new meaning. We haven’t performed in public for the last twelve months. Our first performances will be in Paris. So it is going to be a big change for us. Even the very idea of coming together in order to see a show, in a shared time and space with a group of people, is going to have a different feel to it. The world has changed, because of the pandemic but also because of other major changes: the overall shift to the right, Brexit, Trump in the States over the last few years, and Black Lives Matter last year, to name a few. Both politically and socially, we are going through an important, electrifying moment in time. I have no doubt that the pieces will resonate in a very different way in view of the present context and that they will open up a whole host of interesting questions.
Interview by Barbara Turquier

Tim Etchells / Neon installations: For the duration of the Portrait, the exteriors of the Centre Pompidou, Théâtre de la Bastille, Théâtre de la Ville / Espace Cardin and Théâtre des Abbesses will be lit up by a series of neon-light installations created by Tim Etchells. Together they will explore the contradictions of written language, ranging from speed reading, uncertain meanings, and out-of-context ideas, to snippets of stories. The idea behind the texts and different formats is to plunge spectators into an ambiguous position, thereby awakening their curiosity.