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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.