Forced Entertainment, First Night

Review in Issue 14-1 | Spring 2002

Red plush curtains, leggy girls, guys in loud suits, big teeth smiles and loads of slap. What have we here? Yet another postmodern pastiche of the world of variety – a bag of cheap tricks that both send up and honour popular entertainment, the amusing-ourselves-to-death Big Night Out? Well, no. This being Forced Entertainment, we are not let off so lightly. Having set up the premise of a knowing romp through the fag-ends of show-business, the company move the whole thing onto another level. First Night uses techniques familiar from earlier work such as Speak Bitterness – toe curling personal confession, endless lists, the juxtaposing of the mundane and the profoundly important – and applies these to set pieces such as a wonderful re-working of the Mr Memory act in which audience members have the nature of their death foretold: ‘You in the second row – breast cancer.’

We are pushed into a confrontational re-evaluation of our relationship to ‘theatre’: our passivity is challenged – yet there is no obvious possibility of active engagement. Our choice is basically to put up or get out – which some do. We are exhorted to forget the outside world, then fed a list of things to forget, from babysitter problems to the car-crash down the road. And of course the urging of forgetfulness reminds us of the absurdity of the notion of theatre as a self-contained capsule existing outside of the time, space and action of the real world. But here we strike another irony: for First Night is in many ways a conventional drama – conforming to the Unities and fulfilling Aristotle’s requirement of Catharsis. Laugh – I nearly died.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Dec 2001

This article in the magazine

Issue 14-1
p. 28