Forced Entertainment, Speak Bitterness

Review in Issue 8-1 | Spring 1996

Speak Bitterness is a magical aural tapestry, a poetic collage which beguiles and amuses. Seven performers shift uncomfortably behind an enormous table littered with documents which contain a long litany of confessions, from which the performers read. Inspired by the meetings held after China’s cultural revolution in which citizens were encouraged to publicly confess their grievances, the confessions in Speak Bitterness range from the political (‘We believed that ethics and free market capitalism were the same thing’) to the eccentric (‘when they called our names out at Karaoke nights, we hid in the toilets’). The performers’ voices ebb and flow with the grace and subtlety of a symphony. Their movements, though uncharacteristically restrained, are tightly choreographed and intricately observed. Gone is the manic rushing around and video projections which punctuated their previous work. In Speak Bitterness the company synthesize their love of pure language. This is highly skilled poetry in performance. Many of the confessions amuse, often touching nerves in the audience. But Forced Entertainment do not use text to simply tell a story. The language itself creates a musical soundscape. Although the confessions never themselves lose meaning, the voices build symphonically to create a sound which fills the theatre with a new kind of music. However, their work is never simply esoteric. Forced Entertainment are pioneers in British experimental theatre. The company create work which is persistently challenging and mould-breaking, they imitate nobody and have no imitators.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Dec 1995

This article in the magazine

Issue 8-1
p. 23