Void Story

Forced Entertainment, Sheffield, United Kingdom, 2011
Author: Tim Etchells & Forced Entertainment
Directed by Tim Etchells

about the production

Void Story follows a beleaguered pair of protagonists on a rollercoaster ride through the decimated remains of contemporary culture. Navigating one terrible cityscape after another, mugged, shot at and bitten by insects, pursued through subterranean tunnel systems, stowed away in refrigerated transport, shacked up in haunted hotels and lost in wildernesses, backstreets and bewildering funfairs, they travel to the centre of a night so intense that there are no stars to be seen.

 The theatre group Forced Entertainment headed by Tim Etchells was established in 1984. Right from its beginnings until today it has been famous for productions, the aim of which is the study of theatre reality and the significance of the theatre at present. Among the tens of productions let us mention, for example, Speak Bitterness (1994), Quizoola! (1998), Bloody Mess (2004), Exquisite Pain (2005), Spectacular (2008), The Trill of it All (2010), or the latest Tomorrow´s Parties (2011). The starting point in their theatre productions does not tend to be a dramatic text and the results of their work are quite far away from the classical theatre, although they are using its techniques. Their performances are labelled in a number of ways – site specific, gallery installations, performances or the so-called durational performances, in which they break the conventional theatrical length and narration. The Forced Entertainment production style is so manifold that it is not possible to get an exact picture of their work just by the Void Story. It has been confirmed by their devotion to expose the process of drama creation to constant investigation, while the most important aspect of it is to create something more and, simultaneously, something less than the theatre. What the Forced Entertainment, in their own words, are interested in, is the search and creation of such a version of theatre which provokes, thrills, questions, disturbs and entertains. Each of their productions is original in the use of scenic means, ranging form the props, the text and the sound, the music, the movement up to the stage setting. The structure – the textual and visual shape of the production – originates in the independent creative process. At the beginning there are interesting impulses which can have any form – a situation, a discussion, a space, an action, an atmosphere, a costume or a joke and the gathering of the material. Their work represents a research of theatrical practices and applies a wide spectrum of methodologies and techniques, combining drama, installation, performance, video art and digital media.

In the Void Story the four protagonists are sitting at both edges of the obscured stage at small desks with lamps and laptops. The spectator is perceiving them indirectly, because his attention is mainly drawn to a series of projected images. The actors are narrating a story, creating dialogues for individual characters, adding sound effects. It is quite an experience to watch what is happening, as well as how it is happening. It is exactly the mix of means which is original and of interest and in which a mad, obscure, but also very witty, surrealistic story is told, resembling the films by Lynch or Kubrick with its atmosphere. The simultaneity and fragmentation first make the story appear only to be immediately revoked by applying theatrical procedures.

This theatre brings topical themes reflecting the urban life style, while for the work of the ensemble it is extremely important how these themes are communicated, always emphasizing the present and the absent on the stage.

The performers give their voices to the characters created by a collage of drawings and photographs which, in a sequence of cartoons, or almost an animated film storyboard, are being projected on the projection screen on the stage. The actors dub the cartoon characters and add all other sound effects for the stage. In the Void Story the Forced Entertainment have created a kind of a mix bordering on the comics, the animated film, the collage of drawings and photographs, the radio play and the theatre, in order to be able to ask how, at present time, one can still narrate a story in a theatre. Their production is a kind of an audio landscape. This notion has been explained by the German theatre theoretician Hans Thies Lehmann: “In the audio visual context the actor is talking here and now. The fantasy space, which has replaced the picture space, is there to abandon the opposition between the auditorium and the stage, and create one space made of an association and a dream resulting from a visual drama and an audio landscape. “
Martina Vannayová

“The post-apocalyptic atmosphere of all-round hopelessness is filled with the dark, perceptive comedy of Tim Etchells’ script. Etchells is a master of the absurd.”

“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.”
Science is a Lie


text, Photoshop images, direction: Tim Etchells
performers: Robin Arthur, Richard Lowdon, Cathy Naden, and Terry O’Connor.
design: Richard Lowdon
sound and music: John Avery
lighting: Nigel Edwards
production: Ray Rennie, Elb Hall
performers in the photo-collages: Rajni Shah and Chris Williams, Kaya Freeman, Nigel Edwards, Jim Fletcher, Bob Clarke, Will Waghorn, Vlatka Horvat.
Additional Photoshop Assistance: Stephanie Wong, Graeme Stonehouse.
co-production: Void Story was made for SPILL 09, Tanzquartier Vienna, Tate Media.


Tim Etchells (1962) is the artistic director of the ensemble Forced Entertainment, established in 1984, with whom he has devised, directed and occasionally performed in a variety of performance projects staged at important festivals and theatre stages all over the world which have been enthusiastically received by both the press and the public. Etchells has also collaborated with a wide circle of artists from different artistic professions and countries: actors, photographers, choreographers, dancers, curators, visual artists. He has curated several festivals and exhibitions and is a regular contributor to publications about art and theatre. He is the author of several books reflecting his interest in the search for new approaches to narrative and character as well as the limits of the language (Endland Stories, The Dream Dictionary, The Broken World). His has an extensive list of critical writings on theatre and art. In the book Certain Fragments, he has documented his work with Forced Entertainment. In 2004 – 2007 he had a lectureship at Lancaster University and in 2007 received an honorary doctorate at the Dartington College of Arts.


Materials available

Script of the production: SK, EN

If you are interested in these materials, write to archivy@nitrafest.sk