Magic or Mayhem?
By Marcina Zaccaria
Forced Entertainment, based in the UK, brings a whimsical game of repetition to the stage in Real Magic.
Based in Sheffield, UK, this six person theater company has sent three of their wittiest physical comedians to shed light on their troubled human condition. Commissioned by Performance Space 122 and the Spalding Gray Award, repetition is divisive in Real Magic.
Performers Jerry Killick, Richard Lowdon, and Claire Marshall are unskilled at reading psychic energy. Cue card after cue card is shown, but the performers can’t seem to find the words. While their thoughts float to electricity and the word, “hole,” spelled without the “w,” they seem lost in a netherworld, filled with laugh tracks and sorrows.
They seem as adrift as a player in Waiting for Godot. Ideas flow without progressing. While Jerry, Richard, and Claire remain on the stage, filled with green Astroturf and surrounded by florescent lights, one wishes there was more in the world than cue cards with words like “Sausage” and “Caravan.” If only someone would do their “Algebra” right, we might glean that these people are tired or hungry. Or, at least, upset.
While Forced Entertainment tests silence, they also test their emotional endurance. The middle-aged performers rely on their zany energy. The sight gags are appreciated. So are the chicken suits. With the audience reacting with their energy pattern, Real Magic feels like the Gong Show, but with less participation. There is comic despair. There is the slightest bit of heartache.
Lost in their own vision, in a world of endless replays, the performers dash across the stage for dance breaks. Built to interrogate, they treat their foggy memory with an element of cruelty. Each one endures the hot-seat. The performers burst out in cabaret. Fluorescents flash when the joke has gone on too long. The performers, who really present as people – not really objects on the stage – seemed to have lived through everything together since 1984. That’s what makes Real Magic a welcome addition to the unifying Coil Festival. Only in the East Village, can we appreciate such a radical brand of performance.
PS122’s Coil Festival offers the best of dance, theater, and performance. There are 13 other events this year, including an interdisciplinary musical, dance, and even virtual reality.
Real Magic is playing until January 8 at La MaMa, Ellen Stewart Theatre, located at 66 East 4th Street in Manhattan. This 12th edition of the Coil Festival runs until January 22.