Forced Entertainment, Exquisite Pain

Review in Issue 18-1 | Spring 2006

Forced Entertainment’s work over the past decade divides roughly into postmodern everything-including-the-kitchen-sink theatrics (First Night, Bloody Mess) and ‘inventing the truth’ pared-back confessionals and mock-doc investigations (Speak Bitterness, The Travels). Their latest piece (the first to be developed from a pre-existing text, a memoir by artist Sophie Calle) falls into the latter group. Two performers, one male, one female, each seated behind a conference table. A pile of papers, shuffled nervously. A neon sign advertising Exquisite Pain – show title or invitation to the nightclub of your dreams? Two plasma screens, bearing Calle’s hyperrealist photographic images of seemingly neutral objects loaded with meaning – a red telephone, a hotel bed, a window frame – shift as each actor takes the talking stick. Stories are exchanged. The woman reiterates the pain and horror of the moment when her older lover abandoned her in a foreign hotel. She tells, and retells, and tells again, the same story: each time, the telling is slightly different: a change of emphasis, or tone; a shift in choice of language, in mannerism, in emotional charge. Each time she speaks, we feel that we cannot bear to listen again, but we do. The man presents a succession of stories in different first-person voices, collected by Calle as a barter for her painful tale. In typical Forced Ents style, these Augustinian confessions of moments of exquisite pain vary from the trivial to the gob-smackingly, earth shatteringly terrible. Minor social faux pas and suicide sit side-by-side; each accorded the same neutrality, the same light gravitas. Being natural is the greatest act of all – and this piece is acted with the sort of perfected we-are-not-really-acting style that the company has made its own. Bitter-sweet, beautiful, terrible – the truth is in the telling.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Nov 2005

This article in the magazine

Issue 18-1
p. 26