The World in Pictures


This mock-epic theatrical picture-book of the history of man snakes its shambolic and highly comical way from cave to shopping mall, with dodgy costumes, swirling music and over-enthused performances.

Somewhere, amid the frequent flurries of fireproofed theatrical snow and the improvised scenery, there’s a bold attempt to tell the Story of Mankind. 

Complete with cavemen in bad wigs, Forced Entertainment’s chaotic epic sets the tone with its beginning; a prehistoric 'volcano dance' which recreates a scene from the 1960s movie One Million Years BC. Skipping more of its narrative than it can hope to include, The World in Pictures whisks the audience on a mock-grandiose and comical trip from way back then to right here and right now. Somewhere on its wandering road of lewd diversions and noisy digressions, the group’s latest performance finds an eloquence and a pathos that its stumbling beginnings do not hint at.

© Forced Entertainment 2006. Theatre performance.



Conceived and devised by the company
Performers: Robin Arthur, Davis Freeman, Wendy Houstoun, Jerry Killick, Richard Lowdon, Claire Marshall, Terry O’Connor, Bruno Roubicek
Direction: Tim Etchells
Text: Tim Etchells and the company
Design: Richard Lowdon
Lighting Design: Nigel Edwards
Soundtrack: Found Sources

Co-produced by Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz (Berlin), Wiener Festwochen, Les Spectacles vivants – Centre Pompidou (Paris), Productiehuis Rotterdam (Rotterdamse Schouwburg), Kunstencentrum Vooruit (Gent), and in the UK by Nuffield Theatre (Lancaster), Tramway (Glasgow), Warwick Arts Centre (Coventry).

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"In The World in Pictures, Forced Entertainment takes its customary lunatic pageant beyond farce to the resonance of the human condition."

It is a bad, pessimistic, deeply dark history of humantiy that they tell us, steering unerringly towards catastrophe, but it is told so lightly, so freely and lustily'
Frankfurter Rundschau


Programme notes and essays

Read the programme note by Forced Entertainment’s Artistic Director Tim Etchells here.

Years ago I bought a seven-inch spoken-word record titled 'The Triumph of Man'. Combining a huge melodramatic soundtrack, copious sound effects and a very serious movie-trailer narrator, the record took you, in a matter of minutes, from the Birth of Man to the Space Race, with Writing, Railways, Revolutions and some other stuff in between. As far as we could tell the record had been made for an exhibit at the 1964 New York World Fair and seemed to been designed as commentary for a set of wax-works or crudely animated mechanical historical scenes. We were never entirely sure.

Anyway. This record proved to be a kind of starting point for us whilst making The World in Pictures, and early rehearsals saw the company, armed with a pile of fancy-dress hire historical costumes, desperately trying to keep pace with its pompous summarised cavalcade of Greeks, Romans, plagues, inventions, wars and civil wars. More than a little of all that spirit has remained in the finished performance even if, along the way, we went in some different directions, added other strands of material and paid a passing visit to other stories of mankind; from picture books and kids encyclopaedias, to serious internet timelines, dodgy DVDs of Our Century and books like Jared M. Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel.

Chaotic and comical The World in Pictures combines diverse elements and starts where Bloody Mess left off, returning us to the place we like so much – on an empty stage, with an impossible story to tell and inadequate tools for the job. There’s something in the combination of these things and the performers’ attempts to either make it all work, or to sabotage the proceedings entirely, that we love to explore. It’s good farce. But the unfolding narrative-in-ruins, a half-remembered rush of picture-book history that inevitably misses more than it can contain, makes good space for contemplation too.

Just under the surface, the piece asks that people think about themselves – about what and how they are watching here in the theatre, about what it means to tell a ‘history’ or to tell a story of any kind. It asks that people think about the relationships between their own daily lives and the world events that they live through, about the difference between memory and history, about the processes by which they assimilate complex events or experiences into narrative and memory, about what gets lost, forgotten, omitted or discarded in the telling. The questions that, in short, all of us face in trying to make sense of our lives.

We hope you enjoy the performance.

Tim Etchells
Sheffield 2006


Read the programme note by Aenne Quiñones of Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz here.

Chroniclers of the Everyday

There is a moment in Forced Entertainment’s performance First Night when Cathy Naden stands alone on the stage and, at the end of an inept ‘mind-reading’ act, and predicts the causes of death of the various members of the audience. ‘Cancer. Cancer of the lung,’ she says, picking out some unfortunate with her eyes, followed, laughing, by ‘Snake bite’ for his or her neighbour. This for me is one of those uniquely ‘Forced Entertainment’ moments, a mixture of melancholy, light mockery, jokiness and playful Realism, that in actual fact only Forced Entertainment succeed in pulling off with such sparsity and economy. In the company’s new project The World in Pictures, there is another such moment as performer Jerry Killick follows the logic of the works narrated time-line to its deadly conclusion, reminding all of us in the building that we too will face death and oblivion. You sit as an observer of the stage action in the auditorium, part of this chance encounter with hundreds of other people, and before you know it, you are suddenly thrown back alone with yourself. What in others seems all too often contrived or simply banal, Forced Entertainment turn into a direct connection with the audience that is all too seldom to be found in the theatre. And this is indeed one of the starting-points of their work: the redefinition of the theatre as a unique space for bringing together the audience and the performer. For them, no dramatic cliché is too hackneyed to be used playfully to explore the form of the theatre. But of course this is not just about theatre, because here the ‘theatre’ is treated as part of reality, and everyone on the stage is involved in the process; no one loses themselves in character in order to declaim some apparently universal message that has, in any case, nothing to do with contemporary life. Instead, it is about questions that we would not dare to ask ourselves on the brink of madness, or, on the contrary, simply about how best to sell oneself to the world.

A large part of the text is created during the rehearsal process, through conversation and the discussion of themes; no one is relegated to the role of a cipher. The whole only functions when the work is driven forward by everyone’s involvement with the project. In this way Forced Entertainment explore the everyday: everything is material, and everything is constantly under scrutiny. What emerges at the end on the stage is not the kind of piece that can easily be reproduced by others, but rather something that is unimaginable outside the collective work. Indeed, the company does not make the texts from the pieces available for other groups or directors to perform. All these factors taken together create the conditions for the unmistakable Forced Entertainment style that brings the question of the complexity and contrariness of contemporary life back to the centre in such a unique way. Constantly reinventing themselves, they have made 24 hour theatre marathons, produced work for digital media, and at the same time decisively influenced a whole wave of younger theatre makers across Europe. Forced Entertainment are theatre’s conscientious objectors par excellence, looking beyond representation in order to rediscover a theatre that is connected to the way in which we live and work. Finally, the one thing that we can be certain of with Forced Entertainment is that nothing is certain, except perhaps the fate that Jerry will predict for us at the end of the show.

Aenne Quiñones,
Berlin 2006


You can download an education pack about the show here.



The World in Pictures DVD

The World in Pictures DVD

Price: £44.50
Somewhere, amid the frequent flurry of fireproof theatrical snow, the rag‑bag of dodgy costumes, the swirling music and the improvised scenery,...



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