Certain Fragments: Contemporary Performance and Forced Entertainment

Certain Fragments: Contemporary Performance and Forced Entertainment

Certain Fragments: Contemporary Performance and Forced Entertainment

Certain Fragments: Contemporary Performance and Forced Entertainment


Certain Fragments is an extraordinary exploration of what lies at the heart of contemporary theatre. Written by the artistic director of Forced Entertainment, acknowledged to be 'Britain's most brilliant experimental theatre company'( The Guardian ), Certain Fragments investigates the processes of creating performance, the role of writing in an interdisciplinary theatre, and the influence of the city on contemporary art practice.Tim Etchells' unique and provocative voice shifts from intimate anecdote to critical analysis and back again. As in his theatre-making, Etchells disrupts traditional notions of creative, academic and intellectual work. The book is an exciting and radical fusion of story-telling and criticism. It also makes available for the first time, four seminal Forced Entertainment texts by Etchells.


(1) A Party

San Francisco 1997. After the last performances ever of Club of No Regrets there’s a party on the stage—a party that gets quite out of hand in a mixture of alcohol, exhaustion, exhilaration, and other things. I don’t have pictures of the fire people started with bits of the set, the props and costumes at 3 in the morning, or of the smoke and sparks from the fire rising up and curling over the freeway overpass. I don’t have any pictures of the company going straight to the airport at 7am, not having slept, still jumping, looking forward to 11 hours of flight.

But I do have pictures of the scene, must have been 2am, where two members of the audience—people we’d met in San Francisco who’d been helping out around the show—decided to enact a section of the piece in which, gagged and bound to chairs, the performers struggle to get out; a cross between escape artistry, brutal ballet and the climax of some well-dodgy thriller.

I think we had always known that people in the audience often felt drawn to get up and join in with this very physical and probably dangerous bit of Club of No Regrets—you could see it in the twitches and energy of people in their seats—so it was really refreshing to see it finally happen. I mean I don’t want to get too romantic about people going mad and smashing furniture to pieces to incredibly loud music, but that night there was definitely a line crossed. I remember that once he had escaped Will was swinging his chair repeatedly onto the floor and smashing it and shards of wood and metal were splintering everywhere and people really near him were just staring and clapping and laughing. There was a weird and inexplicable feeling that everyone in the room that night was indestructible.

Perhaps that was the kind of performance we really dreamed of. Something beyond.

(2) A Decade

The first piece in this volume—the performance text titled A Decade of Forced Entertainment—might well serve both as an extended introduction to the company and its work and as a paradigm case of the kind of writing I am attempting to do about performance practice and process.

Decade was created late in 1994 as Forced Entertainment celebrated its 10th anniversary. The idea was to mark this occasion with a special one-off performance event that looked back on our work and on the years in which it had

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