at Warwick Arts Centre, Wednesday 20th October 2010
It seems rare that a company’s name actually has much in common with their projects. It is doubtful, for example, that the employees at Virgin Media have never had sexual liaisons, nor that Steve Jobs uses many apples in the production of his products. Never has entertainment been so forced as in The Thrill of It All, searching blindly for gags and trying without apology to make a ridiculous concept seem meaningful. Indeed the only thrill here is leaving after two long hours.
The stage is fairly bare, with only a collection of homemade palm trees, a couple of rolled up rugs and a sofa to divert our attention away from the bewigged performers as they enter. They are out of time, tripping over their feet and others around them. Apparently this is hilarious. Even if it is funny it wears thin after the first song. What seems to be a joke carries on for what feels like days. A performer picks up a microphone. It makes her voice squeaky. Again, we are supposedly meant to find this funny. She exclaims that the performers are all wonderful and hopes that we will enjoy the show. We won’t.
Interspersed amongst the ‘dancing’ are monologues and interchanges between the characters. In their high-pitched tones the women contemplate philosophical matters while the men, whose microphones deepen their voices, discuss emotional and fragile thoughts. Maybe this is all enlightening, but their recurring and incessant metaphors allow for no engagement.
Towards the beginning it is announced that we will see a “smorgasbord of theatricality”, and in many ways this can’t be denied. Dance, music, comedy, direct address and clever use of lighting and sound very often add up to a highly involving theatrical experience, but in The Thrill of It All they leave us feeling even more deflated that we already were by the whole sordid affair.
Forced Entertainment are renowned for creating exciting and challenging work, but in directing The Thrill of It All Tim Etchells has subverted this view. What is supposed to be funny is humourless. What is supposed to be meaningful is vacuous. And what is supposed to be a good night out turns out to be one of the dullest productions of the year. Put that on the poster.