It’s a Bloody Mess

OK, I promised some kind of a review of Bloody Mess by Forced Entertainment. Well, I can’t really be arsed to write one any more, and the reviews linked from their site say most of what I want to, but here’s my own slant…

Firstly, I had very little idea what to expect. Gill booked the tickets about six months ago, as soon as she read about it being on, which surprised me slightly. She said that we were sitting in the middle of the front row, which frightened me slightly… I mean, this is some kind of experimental physical theatre thing, right? who’s to know whether we might get dragged on stage and… I dunno, flayed with meat or something? Anyway, transpires that Gill is a bit confused about the difference between “circle” and “stalls”, so we were a safe enough distance from the stage.

The show opened with two clowns trying to lay out rows of seats at opposite ends of the stage, which reminded me of Ionescu’s “The Chairs” although I don’t really know how, as I can’t remember anything of that play (I saw it in Bratislava in 1992, and I think it may have been performed in Romanian) other than the fact that lots of chairs were put on stage. The clowns got increasingly aggressive towards one another, stealing each others’ chairs to try and make their seating plan the definitive one. Once we finally had a complete row of ten chairs (at the front of the stage, it transpired) the other eight performers came on. Everyone sat down and, one by one, they passed a microphone around, introduced themselves and said a little about what they hoped to get from the evening.

where all of the performers introduced themselves and told what they wanted to get out of the evening. This part was very funny, in a sort of self-referential theatrical way that deconstructed the reasons why people get involved in performing in the first place: “I want you to think of me as the hero of the show, sort of macho, strong and manly”, “I want you to think of me as the hero, like everything he just said only more understanding and sensitive”, “I want you to want me. When you see tonight’s performance, you’re going to be thinking ‘she’s the one I’d like to fuck'”, “I am enigmatic. You won’t understand what I’m doing, but you will know that it’s very significant and meaningful”, etc.

Introductions over, the bloody mess began. The performers went off to their own bit of stage and started… performing. Our two heros were heavy metal roadies who donned long-hair wigs and sabotaged everyone else’s performance by shouting “one two. two. TWO” into the microphone and blasting smoke machines everywhere. Our fuck-buddy donned a gorilla costume and spent the rest of the show gallumphing around in it, except for the occasional break where she would pull the monkey mask off to inquire of the audience “you are still thinking about fucking me, aren’t you? I just want to make sure…”. Our enigma lay, enigmatically, in the middle of the stage, standing up only to introduce a section where she would make us indescribably sad, so sad that we would carry the pain with us for the rest of our lives. One of the clowns tried to tell us the story of the universe’s creation, the birth of the earth, and the end of all things, except that he was constantly interrupted by blasts of loud rock music and enveloping smoke (at one point, as he was describing the earth’s creation, wibbly-wobbly synthesizer noises bubbled up through the sound system and we were treated to a very loud playback of Silver Machine; I got incredibly nostalgic for a song which I didn’t even like very much in the days when I considered myself a Hawkwind fan). One woman stalked the stage, repeatedly climbing out of and into dresses and tipping vast quantities of water over her head.

The whole thing was indeed a bloody mess, but I was surprised at how well it held my attention. It was, at over two hours, a bit long and bum-numbing, and most of the routines dragged out for about twice as long as they ought to have done, but then for a piece which was largely about self-indulgence I suppose that’s entirely appropriate. Gill wasn’t quite so convinced, she liked it in parts but found the whole… well, too self-indulgent I guess. Anyway, not the best experimental theatre I’ve seen (that would have to be De La Guarda‘s Periodo Villa Villa at Three Mills Island in 1997’s LIFT: I don’t expect to see a greater spectacle ever again in my life), but still a great night out and I was very glad to be going to the theatre for the first time in… far too long.