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The Sheffield culture guide written by in-the-know locals

Forced Entertainment

Sheffield’s Forced Entertainment were once the "enfants terribles" of the avant-garde theatre scene but, having been around for over 30 years, they’re now more like the elder statesman of contemporary performance. After forming the company at Exeter University in the dark days of Thatcher’s Britain, they moved to Sheffield where many other artists and musicians were taking advantage of free rehearsal space (read abandoned factories) and state subsidy for the arts (read the dole) in the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire. They started off rehearsing in the same building as Pulp and performing their compellingly chaotic work at The Leadmill when it was more arts centre than gig venue. Three and a half decades later they are a world-renowned contemporary performance company regularly headlining theatre festivals in Paris, Berlin, Brussels and Tokyo among other exotic destinations.

How would you describe your work?
A 30+ year long attempt to reinvent theatre in simple and complicated ways – always with the dream of making new connections to audiences, finding a different voice or mode or ways of making contact, a different kind of dialogue or experience.

Trying to make theatre that speaks, now. Here.

It’s also a long long collaboration – an attempt to make work together, to share a journey about making things.

What inspires you?
Inspired by dissatisfaction – how the world is a mess. Wanting to make other kinds of ways of thinking and feeling.

Inspired by other artists – strong moves, bold inventions, challenges, joys.

Inspired by other people. That another world – a better one – is possible.

Inspired by laughter. By fear. By horror. By love. By joy.

What are you currently working on?
We’re working on a new show. It doesn’t even have a title yet, and for the moment we hardly know anything about it. It’s the best part of the process and the most frightening. There’s a lot of trying things in the rehearsal room and a lot of talking.

What’s your desk or workspace like?
The computer desktop is a total mess. Everything is everywhere. Underneath the mess you can see remnants of some previous attempt to organise things. Somehow it works though. Forced Entertainment’s storage on the other hand is highly organised – the sets and equipment for different productions stacked and crated. We need to be efficient there!

What do you love about Sheffield?
The brutalist electricity substation at the bottom end of Eccy Road. The view from Skye Edge. The far end of London Road. The walk to Forge Dam. The beggar who sits in the same place everyday at the moment and plays The Beatles' Yellow Submarine on a recorder. The bus drivers who correct anyone who asks for a ticket to "city centre" by saying simply "town” or “you mean town?" The three women coming out of the train station tonight, dressed like they had been to a wedding and who were so drunk they could not tell which was they way out of the station and which was the way back in.

What would you do to improve the city?
Better signage at the station.

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