Exquisite Pain

Created 2005

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“I decided to continue… until I had got over my pain by comparing it with other people’s, or had worn out my own story through sheer repetition”

A man and a woman tell stories of ordinary and not-so-ordinary heart-break, each story accompanied by a single iconic image. A red telephone on a hotel bed. A subway station. The view from a window. A green Mercedes.

The woman repeatedly recounts the story of the end of an affair; each time remembering it differ­ently, adding and subtracting details, finding new ways to both remember and forget what happened. The man tells stories from many different people; each a snapshot of sorrow, big or small, that takes its place in a growing catalogue of suffering, break-ups, humiliations, deaths, bad dentistry and love letters that never arrive.

Based on a project by the renowned French conceptual artist Sophie Calle, Exquisite Pain marks the first time that Forced Entertainment have worked from ‘a text’. In this simple and intimate performance Forced Entertainment explore how language, memory and forgetting move to contain, preserve or erase events; how people come to terms with trauma. Exquisite Pain is about love, loss, and the stories we tell ourselves when things have gone wrong.


"Each detached delivery in this almost clinical production becomes surprisingly poignant and emotionally affecting... Hypnotising."
Sunday Independent
"A chance for the audience to look at the nature of memory... Exquisite Pain artfully demonstrates Schopenhauer’s idea that ‘we remember our lives only a little better than a novel we have read."
Irish Examiner
"The marriage of Calle's text with Tim Etchells' minimalist, utterly uncompromising production is heaven-sent... I cannot recommend it strongly enough."
The Guardian
"Minimalist theatre, full of tension."
SŸddeutsche Zeitung


Conceived and devised by the company

Performers two performers drawn from Robin Arthur, Jerry Killick, Richard Lowdon, Claire Marshall, Cathy Naden, Terry O’Connor
Direction Tim Etchells
Text Sophie Calle
Design Richard Lowdon
Lighting Design Nigel Edwards

Exquisite Pain is a Forced Entertainment production from a text by Sophie Calle

Co-produced by Theater der Welt Stuttgart, BIT Teatergarasjen Bergen, The National Museum of Art, Design and Architecture Oslo, Kaaitheater Brussels, La Filature – Scène Nationale Mulhouse and Tanzquartier Wien Vienna