Void Story


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.

Forced Entertainment perform the bleak and comical contemporary fable of Void Story as if it were a radio play, sitting at tables, turning the pages of the script, ‘doing’ the requisite voices and adding in sound effects for gunshots, rain and bad phone-lines.  Simultaneously the otherwise empty stage is dominated by a series of projected images, a storyboard for an impossible movie-version of Tim Etchells’ uniquely unsettling text. Somewhere between the live dialogue, the recorded sound effects and the collaged images attempting to visualise the narrative, is where Void Story actually takes place.

© Forced Entertainment 2009. Theatre performance.


Devised by Forced Entertainment
Text, Images and Direction: Tim Etchells
Performers: Robin Arthur, Richard Lowdon, Cathy Naden, and Terry O’Connor.
Design: Richard Lowdon
Sound & Music: John Avery
Lighting: Nigel Edwards
Production: Ray Rennie and Elb Hall
Performers in the photo-collages: Rajni Shah and Chris Williams, Kaya  Freeman, Nigel Edwards, Jim Fletcher, Bob Clarke, Will Waghorn and Vlatka Horvat.
Additional Photoshop Assistance: Stephanie Wong and Graeme Stonehouse.

Void Story was made for SPILL 09 with support from Tanzquartier, Vienna and Tate Media.

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‘Somewhere in my head they are still running, and I'm keeping them alive through force of will.’
The Guardian

'Void Story is a lushly macabre piece that makes a farce of storytelling.' ****

'It's deadpan, truly disturbing and very funny.'
Illuminations Media

'Void Story dissects the body of the play like a living autopsy. Void Story not simply tell a tale, but also tells the telling of the tale.'

'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

'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.' ****

Programme notes and essays

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

A man and a woman stand at the window to their apartment and look out at the night. Something happens. They flee. The night is bad and threatens to take them deep down to the centre of its dead heart of cartoon darkness.

Hack-saw pictures, spilling digital noise.

Someone’s snapshot of the sky grabbed off of Google, cut, shifted to black and white, flipped horizontal, then more or less buried with the stretched midnight clouds from another picture. In the foreground a fence from Sheffield, a wall from London, the whole scene backed by random Flickr trees. A face – the eyes of one man, backwards and brutalised, the nose and the mouth of another set off with an image of a wig, its texture depleted, the colour drained. Skin distorted, then mixed with the texture of stone. My brother’s hands, cut off and stuffed in the sleeves. That makes a bad guy by the road.

Stupid perspectives. Self-evident nonsenses of geography, biology, architecture. Spaces with bad physics. Crude repetitions of elements. A dream view from a window that dissolves as soon as you look closely. A world that flaunts, in short, its own cut and paste construction and its own hybridity.

In the sound department it’s a similar kind of jumble. Snatched sound effects overlap and collide with recordings, echoes, layered distortions. Half the world makes no sound but the rest of it is somehow jacked-up high to compensate. Doors. Drinks. Gunshots and killer bees. All too loud on hungover ears. The voices tremble, echo and pitch shifts perspective further out of whack. A hallucination in the aural zone, someone’s talking in the darkness but soon you figure out that it’s not the person you thought.

In performance terms with this project we have come to a compelling and strange place that we’d never exactly anticipated. With a nod to the unstable worlds and dark comedy of my work in fiction (Endland Stories, and the recent novel The Broken World) Void Story is a narrative of sorts, operating in performance as a dynamic kind of hybrid cinema/animation meets radio play, or as a graphic novel come to life.

Perhaps it’s the narrative part that’s the strangest for us. After all, we’ve spent a long time in our work as a performance group more or less dismantling narrative, especially of late it seems, through processes of shattering and splintering it – fragments of story, figures adrift from context, cast out and in collision. In works from 12 am: Awake & Looking Down to Bloody Mess and Spectacular, we’ve been perhaps not so much interested in ‘a story’ as in the plurality of possible stories that might emerge from any collection of material, fascinated by incompletion, and by the meeting of different things over time and in stage space (characters, images, music tracks, texts, textures), in the ways that stories appear to fly out like sparks from the meeting of disparate elements.

'These fragments have I shored against my ruins…’ we might have said if we were looking for mates from the big time, quoting Shakespeare via Eliot.

There are other methods of course and Void Story with its brutal urban picaresque of a story, told at high speed, without the sop of psychology might be one of them. On a stage split between projected images and live voices/sound, and with a vivid set of events that do not happen but which somehow do find a way to happen, Void Story also pursues our obsession with breaking and remaking the apparatus of performance – a kind of simultaneous denial and remaking of theatre, as if it were, might be something else. We hope you enjoy the work.

Tim Etchells 2009

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