“What is the capital city of Spain? Why are people afraid to die? What is a tree? Was John Wayne really brave? Are you a natural blonde?”
Quizoola! is a durational performance based on a text of 2000 questions by Tim Etchells. The piece lasts six hours and — as in other durational works by the company — the audience are free to arrive, depart and return at any point.
Performed by a team of three actors in smeared clown makeup, the players/performers take turns choosing questions from the text and making up answers on stage, lending the piece a live energy. The shape and content of each Quizoola! performance hangs in the balance, negotiated live between players and the audience. As new questions are chosen and new answers made up, the mood shifts from low comedy to personal scrutiny to harsh interrogation and intellectual hairsplitting.
Quizoola! has been staged in a series of evocative and sinister environments, ranging from cellars and basements to changing rooms of abandoned gymnasia, scenery building workshops and railway arches.
© Forced Entertainment 1996. 6-hour durational performance.
Conceived and devised by the company
Performers have included: Robin Arthur, Tim Etchells, Richard Lowdon, Claire Marshall, Cathy Naden, Terry O'Connor, Kent Beeson, Mark Etchells, Tim Hall, Jerry Killick, Joe Lawlor, Sue Marshall, Ursula Martinez, Christine Molloy, Sophia New, Dan B. Rogers, Bruno Roubicek, John Rowley, Jim Fletcher
Text: Tim Etchells and the company
Design/Lighting Design: Richard Lowdon
Commissioned by Lois Keidan and Catherine Ugwu at ICA Live Arts & National Review Of Live Art.
Tim Etchells on Quizoola!
Richard Lowdon on Quizoola!
Cathy Naden on Quizoola!
“Extraordinary, near-unclassifiable production.”
“A meditation on our obsession with quizzes and gameshows.”
“A performance that changes the rule book.”
Independent on Sunday
“Mesmerisingly energetic... As if the entire repertoire of questions in the world were being exhausted, so that noone outside would ever have to ask anything."
“Hilarious theatre piece.”
“If art exists not to give answers, but rather to ask questions, then Quizoola! demonstrates what the right questions might be.”
“As though life is a Quiz and we are all contestants.”
“The most exciting event I have seen in ages. Although I simply sat and listened, I have never so intensely participated in a performance.”
Programme notes and essays
Read the programme note by Elias Khoury co-director of the Ayloul Festival here.
In the basement of a destroyed building in downtown Beirut, Forced Entertainment presented something which initially looked like a play. For me, their performance Quizoola! was the most powerful work in the 1998 Ayloul Festival, in its challenge to the audience’s expectations.
For the audience, at the bottom of this lonely building surrounded by the emptiness of the old city, Quizoola!’s ‘script’ of questions and their improvised answers created an atmosphere of intimacy and complicity in the power dynamics established between the interrogator and the interrogated. The performance was informal and fragile, full of paradoxes and intimidation, and personal and impersonal questions.
Throughout the six humid hours, small groups of an astonished audience watched, left and came back as if the unreality of the devastated city of Beirut found its representation in a performance which took place in the present and attempted to represent nothing more than the live situation created by the performers.
This endless and exhausting series of questions and answers took the language to its internal decomposition where it starts to lose its sense. It was as if the audience was witnessing the relationship between the external decadence of the city and the interior disintegration of the human soul being played out.
The game that Tim Etchells and his companions created can be summarised by three elements:
What was going on was a performance that took place after, before and beyond the theatrical scene, creating a correlation between the spaces of theatre, the spaces of language and the spaces of meaning.
The relationship between the inquisitor and the replier took on different forms such as friends, lovers, and prisoners which created further layers of meanings and possibilities. It gave the personal stories which were told by some strange Hakawaties * a universal meaning.
The fatigue of both the actors and the audience heightened the sense of complicity between the two. It became easy to imagine the possibilities of exchanging roles, and assuming new identities, not only for the two "actors" sweating into their clown make-up in the midst of the circle of lights, but across the emptiness of Beirut. Beyond that, we were able to forget the place where the performance was presented as each of the spectators began creating his own questions and answers.
Quizoola! was a personal experience, which helped me to rediscover the death of my language in a foreign tongue.
*In class Arabic literature the Hakawaty is a combination of a storyteller and an actor who tells his stories in public spaces.