With a prominent politician’s father in the I’m A Celebrity jungle and a reality star in The White House, parodying trash TV effectively has become something of a conundrum.
Glittering game shows which conceal an ocean of regret and disappointment have long been fertile ground for examining society. However, how can this scrutiny be updated for times where absurdity trumps logic?
A “situation rather than a story”, Real Magic is a surreal play for surreal times. Three performers enact the same futile game show scene over and over, with the structure becoming increasingly disjointed.
Contestants are given the impossible task of mind reading, and so are inevitably crushed each time in a myriad of confusing and often amusing ways. Although they believe they are given three choices, this is ultimately an illusion.
Second chances are given arbitrarily, with rules being broken and discarded at random. Roles and costumes are swapped continuously, breaking any sense of authority or order.
‘GLEEFUL’ PERFORMANCE: Real Magic appears to be bleak but it is in fact all about humour
Performer Claire Marshall told MM: “The world we live in is a strange and confusing and infuriating place, and we like to make work that reflects how that feels.”
Marshall also stressed how there is a great deal of positivity and humour within what at first appears to be a rather bleak play.
“There’s also a positivity in it that’s about the gleefulness of the performance.”
In this nightmarish loop of time, chicken dances appear mournful and canned laughter feels ominous. Cheerful game show hosts insist ”everyone gets a second chance, everyone gets a second life” as hopes are dashed over and over.
There is something to be said for watching the same scene over and over; you begin to notice the subtle nuances in tone and body language. The varying impact of the same words sped up or spat out in anger.
Despite the sparse, repetitive language, this is a thinky piece, brought to life through dry comic timing and expressiveness - and of course the sizeable improvisational talents of Jerry Killick, Richard Lowdon and Marshall.
Although Forced Entertainment prefer to leave the audience to consider their own interpretations, the theme of being an agent for change in a seemingly hopeless situation is prevalent throughout.
Performer Lowdon said: “There’s something about when the contestant is asked to guess the word that somebody else is thinking of, and they continually make the three wrong choices.
“It’s a bit like, you’re given options but actually as people we often behave through habit.
“In a metaphoric sense, it feels like it talks about what it is like living now in a way.”
Real Magic may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Forced Entertainment’s loyal fan base will enjoy this latest theatrical experiment - and indeed there were some heartfelt guffaws from the audience.
“Beckett Meets Trash TV”
“Devilishly simple and fiendishly intricate” @guardian
— Forced Entertainment (@ForcedEnts) November 29, 2017
For those of us unaccustomed to the company’s distinct brand of avant garde, this show offers interesting perspectives on deconstructing theatre while blending high art with pop culture.
You do however need to be in the right humour to become fully immersed. The repetition can be jarring - and at times downright grating. A relaxing evening at the theatre this is not.
Real Magic is showing at HOME until Friday, tickets here.