Forced Entertainment, Spectacular

Review in Issue 21-1 | Spring 2009

In Spectacular, Forced Entertainment have us by the short and curlies. We squirm in our seats, sometimes laughing, sometimes wondering when we can escape. It’s a show about death and playing dead; about ‘corpsing’ on stage versus taking the moment; about the ‘if only’ part of ourselves that is constantly craving what could have been or might have been, living in a permanent state of subjunctive longing. One character (Claire Marshall, in day clothes) ‘dies’ on stage, over and over again – with various degrees of drama, melodrama, underplay, and overplay – whilst the other character (Robin Arthur, in a fancy-dress skeleton suit) commentates, cogitates, ruminates and speculates on the situation he finds himself in – onstage in a performance that is somehow not going as expected. Where are the marabou-clad dancing girls? The orchestra? The warm-up comic? Absent without leave – we have just the man in the skeleton suit to take us on the theatrical journey, upstaged continuously by his ‘dying’ colleague. Spectacular builds on many of the visual/physical motifs and lines of theatrical enquiry of previous Forced Entertainment work, but also –surprisingly – has the feel of a Beckett play.

Robin Arthur’s performance is a masterful portrayal of an ‘unreliable narrator’. Just who is he and why is he on a stage? We despise his pathos and resigned disappointment; his humming and ha’ing; his down-the-pub storytelling tone. We love him for his raw sadness. He’s there because he’s representing us – poor holy souls loitering in limbo; somehow making do with what we’ve got while we wait for the final curtain to fall.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Nov 2008

This article in the magazine

Issue 21-1
p. 27