And Now for Something Completely Different . . . 

Thursday, Nov 24 2005
You have to credit UCLA Live! for bringing us a range of British companies: Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre of London (whose Measure for Measure closed last week) is a troupe of Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts–trained thespians who do the Bard as he was done in 1580, near the banks of the Thames, when not on tour. Forced Entertainment, however, whose Bloody Mess opens next week, consists of arts adventurers trained at scruffy Exeter University. They studiously avoided London for the northern, suburban climes of Sheffield — a former steel-manufacturing city. None of them is from Sheffield. They chose it because it wasn’t London, explains artistic director Tim Etchells. He also confesses that in the early years, the troupe created a scandal when they subsidized their art by manipulating England’s welfare system. Undistracted, a core of collaborators has been chiseling performance pieces for 20 years and is now traveling the globe with them. In rehearsals, which, on and off, last about five months, the actors discuss ideas and improvise. “I think for the most part our work tends to go in cycles, in a process of reaction and response to the stuff we’ve done before,” Etchells says. “We’d done quite a few still, intimate minimal pieces [see accompanying article], and we were quite desperate to turn the music on and start making some noise,” he adds, explaining the origins of Bloody Mess, which features, among a cornucopia of lunatic images, a woman in a gorilla suit throwing popcorn. The Guardian has called Forced Entertainment “Britain’s most brilliant experimental theatre company” and described Bloody Mess as “The end of the world with pom poms and tinsel.”

Forced Entertainment performs Bloody Mess at UCLA, Freud Playhouse, Thurs.–Sun., December 1–4. Call (310) 825-2101 or visit www.uclalive.org.

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