Ibsen Award Symposium

This is How it's Going to Work: The Theatre of Forced Entertainment

Photo: Gisle Bjørnebye

Photo: Gisle Bjørnebye


24. SEPTEMBER, 10:00–14:45
Nationaltheatret, Hovedscenen

Tickets: 100 NOK, including lunch and coffee. 

Curator: Therese Bjørneboe, theatrecritic and editor of The Norwegian Shakespeare- and Theatre Journal

Welcome to the symposium on the British performance company Forced Entertainment, the winner of the 2016 Ibsen International Award.

The company is known for pushing the limits of theatre, as well as for its exploration of the relationship between performance, play and reality. Aiming to entertain, inspire and sometimes confuse audiences, the group sees the live aspect of their work as crucial to transforming the theatre into a politicized space for encounter and exchange.

Absurd, comical, melancholic and tragic are designations that are often used to describe the company’s work, which according to the Ibsen Award jury is marked by a serious and deeply profound attitude towards the role of theatre in society. Forced Entertainment develops its performances collectively through improvisation and devising, by and large without a finished text. 

At the symposium, Artistic Director Tim Etchells will speak with author and professor Adrian Heathfield. Joe Kelleher, a professor at the University of Roehampton, Séverine Ruseth-Penketh from Université de Stendahl in Grenoble and Sara Jane Bailes from Performance Studies at the University of Sussex will analyse the works of Forced Entertainment though their own research. The symposium will conclude with a discussion with founder members of the company, bridging between academic and practical considerations.

This is How it's Going to Work: The Theatre of Forced Entertainment

 To see what will happen

With Tim Etchells and Adrian Heathfield: In conversation with the curator and writer Adrian Heathfield, director Tim Etchells will trace and evaluate some of the principles that have underpinned Forced Entertainment’s prolific practice over the last three decades: their commitment to collective improvisation, to work that tests the limits of theatrical representation, and to intense events and long durations.  

Joe Kelleher: Flapping about, recomposing

 Departing from a phrase, a fragment of an image, one detail in a host of others, from the overnight performance From the Dark (Berliner Festspiele, 2016), the lecture will address Forced Entertainment's relation to 'politics'. Ranging across the company's body of work, the focus will be on acts of consideration - in the work itself, and in processes of attending to the work, retaining its resonances as something felt, keeping its imperatives 'in the air' - in the face of cultures of anxiety and fear that bedevil the world in which the work takes place.

 Séverine Ruseth Penketh: The Politics of the impossible in Forced Entertainment's theatre shows.

Forced Entertainment is known for pushing at the limits of theatre. While betraying a concern for experimentation and playfulness which contributes to the reinvention of the form, the collective’s drive towards acts and things that seem impossible to stage/play/perform, also highlights the limitations of theatre, by portraying it, as Tim Etchells put it, “as built on an absurd if not impossible transaction”. Drawing from several shows since the turn of the millennium, the lecture investigates the political dimension of Forced Entertainment’s confrontation with the impossible, through focusing on the stage-audience relationship it tends to create.

 Sara Jane Bailes: Taking Our Time

Forced Entertainment’s theatre work always invites us to think about and ‘feel’  time: how we spend or else forget about it, how arduous or intensified our experience of it can become or how soon it will end. The company themselves have, in a sense, engaged us in a protracted durational encounter for the last thirty-two years, inviting us to reflect upon our place in time through structuring and reconfiguring the theatre event. This talk reflects upon time spent in the presence of the group’s extensive and celebrated practice. 

Moderator: Dr. Camilla Eeg-Tverbakk, dramaturg and Assistant Professor at Høgskolen i Østfold/ Akademi for scenekunst.