The Play’s The Thing
Three actors, a handful of lines and an endless performance: Real Magic plays a trick on the audience, more philosophical than magical, and holds up a ludicrous mirror to Nature. Who’s laughing now?
Τρεις ηθοποιοί, μια χούφτα ατακών και μια ατελείωτη παράσταση: Το Real Magic παίζει ένα κόλπο στο κοινό, πιο φιλοσοφικό παρά μαγικό, και σηκώνει ψηλά έναν εξωφρενικό καθρέφτη για να κοιτάζει η Φύση. Ποιος γελάει τώρα?
Tre attori, una manciata di battute e una performance infinita: Real Magic inganna il proprio pubblico più per filosofia che per magia, e regge lo specchio alla Natura. Chi è che ride adesso?
Thessaloniki’s beloved theatre festival, Dimitria, is back for its 54th birthday, and it brought along a plethora of foreign and local artists, thespians, dancers and performers to celebrate the event. One of them, the Sheffield-based (UK) Forced Entertainment, strikes up the band with its puzzling yet enlightening Real Magic, a tale of hope, failure and disappointment. Indeed, «Forced Entertainment’s new performance Real Magic creates a world of absurd disconnection, struggle and comical repetition. To the sound of looped applause and canned laughter, a group of performers attempt an impossible illusion – part mind-reading feat, part cabaret act, part chaotic game show – in which they endlessly revisit moments of defeat, hope and anticipation. Caught in a world of second-chances and second-guesses, variations and changes, distortions and transformations, Real Magic takes the audience on a hallucinatory journey, creating a compelling performance about optimism, individual agency and the desire for change».
At first jauntily but eventually wearily and agonizingly, three actors (Jerry Killick, Richard Lowdon and Claire Marshall) pretend, repeat and swap the same lines and roles over and over for an enervating hour and a half, giving proof of an astonishing savoir fair on stage, all the while we, the audience, twitch and tremble on our seats, now tearing our skin off our eyelids, now holding our breath in useless anticipation. The story – having three chances to guess what the other person is thinking and repeating always the same wrong answers – produces quite brilliantly a merciless endless loop of rare profundity that speaks volumes about our society with so little text.
Albeit with a penchant for confusion, Forced Entertainment’s team knows exactly what it is doing and every single movement is carefully chiselled so as to climax right when it should, paving the road for a game of pretence in which the laughing stock is not always the guy dressed in a chicken suit. As a matter of fact, Real Magic seems to be hell-bent on upending the whole concept of theatrical performance and, given that the more uniform the society in which it is performed, the more radical the act, it sorts of does. Who’s pretending then? The actor or the audience? When the canned laughter and fake applauses fade out and we are left in silence with our own, hysterical cackle, what is true and what is fictional? What is forced and what is spontaneous? And most importantly, what is the Real Magic? Is it the wondrous obduracy that keeps us from falling over the brink of despair on which we find ourselves, pushed forward one step at the time by the regurgitation of the same actions and interactions day in and day out? Or is it the even more hellacious capability of not only bearing with this nonsense that is reality in our daily lives, but to do it also in a forced-entertainment environment such as theatre, where exits are greenly and clearly lit (ringing any bell?), but no one (but a few) dares to cross them before the show is over?
In this plethora of unresolved emotional landscapes, it seems then clear that the truth is not something covered by a veil, waiting to be revealed. The truth is the unveiling that reveals it. Indeed, «the play’s the thing».
The show was played at
Thessaloniki Concert Hall
25 Martiou & Paralia – Thessaloniki
Wednesday 02 October 2019
the 54th Dimitria Festival presents
by Forced Entertainment
director Tim Etchells
devised with and performed by Jerry Killick, Richard Lowdon and Claire Marshall
created with input from Robin Arthur and Cathy Naden
lighting design Jim Harrison
design Richard Lowdon
production management Jim Harrison
sound technicians Greg Akenhurst, Doug Currie
project assistant Anna Krauss