Sheffield experimental theatre company Forced Entertainmet will be celebrating their 30th anniversary next year with a number of special events planned.
And 2013 finds them busier than ever with several different productions and projects on the go.
Next week they will be in their home city starting a UK tour of their latest show, Tomorrow’s Parties, at the Crucible Studio.
Terry O’Connor, one of the core group who have been together all those years, fits in talking about what’s in store for Sheffield before nipping off to Zagreb to perform The Coming Storm at the World Theatre Festival.
None of this has diminished the memory of a spectacular production during the summer At the Ruhrtriennale International Festival of the Arts they performed a large-scale piece, The Last Adventures, in a former industrial space, Maschinenhalle Zweckel, Gladbeck, with a cast of 16 and music by Moroccan composer Tarek Atoui, exploiting the effects of light streaming into the former engine room.
Tomorrow’s Parties, a two-hander exploring the notions of dreams and hope and the realities of the future, also began life in Europe.
“We did some open-air performances in Switzerland in a beautiful setting and it went down well and we thought it was a piece that could tour,” explains O’Connor. “It’s quite nimble, easily transportable.
“It’s already been right across Europe and now we are excited to see how English audiences react which will be different. We’ve been used to people following it on surtitles and it can be disconcerting to hear people laugh before you say the line.”
As is usual with Forced Ents, the piece began with hours of improvisation before it was honed into a finished script.
“Five of us sat in a room in the Site Gallery playing this game based on the phrase, ‘in the future’. But it soon became clear that didn’t work and it was slimmed down to two people.”
O’Connor and Robin Arthur spent hours bouncing ideas back and forward which formed the basis of Tomorrow’s Parties in which two performers wreathed in coloured lights speculate about what tomorrow might bring. The utopian and dystopian visions encompass science fiction scenarios, political nightmares and absurd fantasies,
“Our skill and interest is playing with language and conversation with lots of hesitations and interruptions. It’s a risky aspect of speech,” she observes.
Though O’Connor and Arthur will be performing in Sheffield, different pairs will be used on tour.
“It’s quite demanding, two of us standing up side by side putting out these lines of speech and watching them land, some of them funny and some not. And as we these list of possibilities you sense the audience picking up on something and starting to explore it themselves.”
Another new departure for Forced Ents is In Imagination: The Future Reflected In Art And Argument, a symposium they are hosting with the University of Sheffield where O’Connor is a visiting professor. A whole range of artists and academics will present their vision of the future.
“It’s to help thinkers and makers from feeling isolated and unconnected with others and it’s also a good way for both the university and Forced Ents to connect with the city,” says O’Connor.
To round off the year Forced Entertainment will go to Japan in December with Coming Storm, a piece which plays with the idea of narrative and was their first venture into live music.
As O’Connor departs, adding she is off to Manchester to audition youngsters to perform in a production in November of Tim Etchells’ ‘out-of-the-mouths of children’ piece, That Night Follows Day, one wonders whether Forced Ents performers sometimes lose track of which piece they are currently doing.
“Everything is so different there’s never any danger of that,” insists O’Connor.
Forced Entertainment present
Tomorrow’s Parties has its UK premiere at the Crucible Studio next Thursday and Friday. In Imagination: The Future Reflected In Art And Argument is the School of English Theatre Workshop, at the University of Sheffield, on October 4.