Forced Entertainment, Who Can Sing A Song to Unfrighten Me?

Review in Issue 11-3 | Autumn 1999

Forced Entertainment’s epic durational performance is an extraordinary piece comprised of many strands and levels. The narrative rests on a two and a half hour loop of sequences and fragments that are constantly re-run. It is a performance in which the utterly ridiculous takes on pathos; where the audience laugh as Disney-esque trees argue about acting like trees; where pantomime animals show us how they can’t act ‘dying’; where ‘Once Upon A Time’ stories become confessions of fantasies and desires. Who Can Sing A Song To Unfrighten Me? evokes the world of the child, where fantasies, dreams and nightmares are one and the same thing, and where being frightened becomes the delicious enjoyment of fear.

With a surprisingly small house of about one hundred and fifty at the beginning (falling at its lowest to forty-five after thirteen hours), the audience become part of the strange and intimate half-world in which the performance exists. People drift on and off the stage, and in and out of the auditorium, like sleepwalkers. Yet, as the slight changes and variations in the piece are gradually revealed, so an alertness and awareness accompanies the tiredness. It is a unique shared experience.

Even with its inevitable troughs, this is a wonderful piece of durational theatre, well-shaped and paced across the hours. The entire show can be seen as a twenty-three hour preparation for the closing section. At 11.53pm the music finally stops. At 11.57pm the gorilla does a final dance, dies and joins the others upstage. At 11.59pm the last minute is counted down. Then ‘Stop’. The stage is bare, except for a single chair and the resonances of the after images.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Jun 1999

This article in the magazine

Issue 11-3
p. 23