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Real Magic

The Studio
Four stars

“Sometimes the answer to your problem is right in front of you,” says one of the three performers in Forced Entertainment's black humoured study of being trapped in a hell of one's own making. By this time, Jerry Killick, Richard Lowden and Claire Marshall have spent the best part of an hour jumping in and out of dancing chicken costumes as each takes it in turn to try and guess the word one or the other is thinking. With canned laughter and taped applause under-scoring their efforts, at first it looks like classic prime time showbiz fodder for the masses, who might go willing to hail any act that's thrown in front of them, no matter how rubbish they might be.

As they attempt to bludgeon their shtick into submission ad nauseum, the trio's efforts become louder, more frantic and increasingly desperate, even as the solution to all their problems is staring them in the face. Like Samuel Beckett's assorted double acts, they only have their routines to pass the time, but find themselves stuck in a locked groove, unable to take the necessary leap forward to transcend their lot. It seems no coincidence either that one of the many questions repeated by each performer in turn is “What is the word?”, a question mark away from the title of Beckett's final poem, written for director and fellow traveller Joseph Chaikin after he was struck with aphasia.

Tim Etchells' production, devised with the company, pushes the potential for tedium to the limit, but somehow transcends it to become painfully profound. As millions line up to humiliate themselves in public elsewhere, this is entertainment. This is fun.

 
The Herald, August 24th 2017

ends

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