Thursday, 6 October 2005

Bloody Mess by Forced Entertainment, Oct 6, 2005

Bloody Mess by Forced Entertainment
Melbourne Festival
Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse, Oct 6 to 10, 2005
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Bloody Mess is a marvellously chaotic performance that slides, intentionally, from neatly constructed comic routines and monologues into totally demented theatrical disorder.

Forced Entertainment, from the UK, develops its work through extensive improvisation with director, Tim Etchells.

Although the ensemble always uses eclectic forms, some productions are minimalist and structured.

However, Bloody Mess deconstructs and stretches the boundaries of theatre by fracturing meaning and disconnecting characters. It is as if everyone on stage is in a different show.

It looks like a muddled 1970s  group-devised production performed tongue-in-cheek with style and skill.

The opening sequence is the most coherent. Two men in checked suits, wearing traditional clown make-up, attempt to set up chairs.

One (Bruno Roubicek) places them logically in a row.  Another (John Rowley) keeps moving them until, finally, they are competing, running, tossing chairs and tumbling. It is an hilarious piece of comic business.

Seated in the chairs, actors describe their roles in an earnest, actorly delivery. They will be funny, romantic, desirable, real, the star, a therapist, enigmatic or bubbly. All this proves to be ironic.

The woman who wants to be desirable, (Claire Marshall) dresses in a gorilla suit the entire show and is a comic highlight.

There are two riotously depicted rock and roll roadies (Richard Lowdon, Ben Neale) who control the music and microphone.

Two men, (David Freeman, Jerry Killick) naked but for a huge silver star they hold, plan a beautiful silence which is mutilated by everyone else.

There is no meaning to this show. It is exuberant, messy, at times skilful, superficially unstructured, built on improvisation with no reference to narrative or linear character development, but obviously rehearsed.

Characters interfere with each other's scenes, interrupt at inappropriate moments, focus on their own lunatic purpose and together, they make a total mess of the stage by the end. It is strewn with lollies, tissues, water, popcorn and tinsel.

The usually invisible stage action becomes part of the show. A woman abuses the roadies for the music ruining her tragic scenes. (Cathy Naden) Actors dispute each other's choices. A woman runs through everyone's action, (Terry O'Connor) one calls encouragement from upstage like a cheerleader. (Wendy Houstoun)

Bloody Mess is a delight most of the time and annoyingly indulgent, confused, silly and boring at others. C'est la vie!

By Kate Herbert

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