Saturday, 25 April 2009

PERFORMANCE REVIEW: Void Story

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Void Story
- Forced Entertainment
Soho Theatre, London

What makes a live performance? Blending together cinema, animation, illustration and radio recordings with an exposed backstage you may concoct a black art that leaves the audience with an alchemic reaction wondering what has just happened. But, under Forced Entertainment's skilled craftsmanship, the result is something both extraordinary and heartily entertaining.

It is a Forced Entertainment trademark to push the boundary of theatre-making, and they have the guts and confidence to pull it off. Having continually created such work for the last twenty five years, Forced Entertainment are currently one of Britain's most experimental devising theatre companies, last seen in London at Riverside studios presenting The World in Pictures.

In Void Story the company use projected imagery, recorded sounds and live voice-over by actors on stage that take the audience on a journey to a bleak, collaged world where the two protagonists go through impossible scenarios. The images are manipulated to create a sense of hybrid reality - photographic yet nonsensical. Each image is a piece of artwork, with imaginative play of contrast, composition, and texture.

The sound effects are equally stimulating. Eerie silences in the background and distorted noises activated by the characters create a unique soundscape that goes hand in hand with the visuals, juxtaposed by the familiar and 'logical' voices of the characters.

But one quickly forgets that this is a live performance rather than a film, due largely to the dominating projected imagery, which seemingly works on auto-pilot. The actors only appear on stage to show that at least some of the voices and sounds are live. The images in the centre stage are too intoxicating, meaning that all action taking place on the periphery fails to divert your attention from it. If they had chosen to resist using microphones when sound distortion was unnecessary, then perhaps the naked voice could add another acoustic element whilst giving the actors the reason to stay on stage.

Nonetheless, this does not take away the sheer excitement of seeing something so bold and new. And, if anyone ever approaches you again with that cynical question whether you think theatre is at its last breath because of the prevalence of cinema, televsion, and internet, you know what the answer would be: no - quite the contrary - theatre is getting richer, day by day.

Ingrid Hu

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