Wednesday 23 August 2017

EIF 2017 – Real Magic at the Studio, or, I'm thinking of a word, and it begins with B

Years ago the International Festival staged a dire production of Three Sisters by the American Repertory Theatre. Finally, after years of trying, the EIF has found a show which is equally dire.

We are presented with three performers (Jerry Killick, Richard Lowdon and Claire Marshall) in an unconvincing version of a game show. The premise of the show is that one person thinks of a word (displayed on a piece of cardboard), the second person (usually blindfold) makes three unsuccessful attempts to guess the word, the third person acts as the host. Oh and some, sometimes all, are dressed in bright yellow chicken costumes and periodically do a silly dance. Some in the audience (bafflingly as far as I was concerned) found this latter aspect funny. After the first failure, the trio swap roles twice until each member has played each of the parts. This cycle, a bald and unconvincing narrative to start with (to borrow from Gilbert), is repeated for an interminable 90 minutes.

Some evidently think this is profound. The company behind it, Forced Entertainment, describe themselves as purveyors of “ground-breaking provocative performances”. As far as I was concerned they succeeded only in provoking extreme boredom and, as for the other epithet I've got news for them – Beckett got there first. And he was consistently moving and funny unlike this. The whole set up here is thin such that I never really believed in it, or that these were real people trapped in it, and as such I didn't give a damn as to whether they got out of it or not, though I did give a damn about how long I was to be subjected to it. There's also a wearily familiar contempt for the audience visible – as with Martin Creed I had an increasing suspicion that the trio were laughing behind their hands at these suckers having paid money to watch this.

As the minutes dragged by I looked at my watch, I counted the lights on the rig, I closed my eyes. I even started trying Paddington-style hard stares on the actors. Eventually, far too late, the thing simply stops – this is, we are told, all they have time for.

This should never have been programmed. Original? An example of the best in international theatre? Don't be ridiculous. To be avoided.

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