That Night Follows Day – a production by Tim Etchells & Forced Entertainment
A Family Affair…
Christmastime – perhaps more than any other time – evokes a sentimentalised childhood, a familial idyll that bears poignant relation to the complex, ambivalent truths of actual experience.
What better time to see this touching theatre production of ‘That Night Follows Day’ at the Purcell Rooms at the Southbank Centre. Produced by leading contemporary theatre company Forced Entertainment, written and directed by artistic director Tim Etchells.
Etchells’ extraordinary production is an angry, tender, very beautiful tour de force – performed with great wit and charm by a talented cast of 16 diverse young people aged between 8 and 14, including two British Sign Language users. Together they present a new version of Tim Etchells’ text as the company’s first production as Southbank Centre Associate Artist.
I am a passionate advocate for children and young people engaging in the theatre arts, my role as director of a West London youth theatre over the past 11 years has given me great faith in the extraordinary ability, raw honestly and unvarnished truth young people are capable of. Theatre provides a wonderful platform from which their voices can be heard.
This moving production doesn’t fail to convey with its simple delivery of statements and facts spoken chorally, individually and signed.
The statements give a frank yet playful voice to the experiences and knowledge children have gained from their parents and carers – the facts, the support, the love, and the confusion….
You feed us.
You dress us.
You lay down the law.
You limit screen time.
You tell us the world was full of dinosaurs.
You explain that night follows day.
You tell us not to cheat.
You watch us when we are sleeping.
You tell us about the death of communism.
You tell us about the birth of Islam.
You tell us God exists.
You tell us that God may not exist….
Lovingly it satirises our collective and individual fantasies, laying bare the absurd, oppressive facts of life in a bewildering, contradictory world.
With disarming acuity, these young people hold up a mirror that confronts us with a litany of uncomfortably familiar lies, half-truths, platitudes and threats. Words of wisdom, words of truth, advice worried and confused… Any parent – and every child – will recognise the language. Our parents offered the same clichés. We, in turn, find ourselves riffing variants with our own offspring. The piece hilariously and poignantly exposes a truth. That none of us knows what is going on. Cogs in a Machine, more or less conscious – we’re making it up as we go along, doing the best we can; sometimes inspired, sometimes not so much; covering our backs, covering our tracks…
It’s topical too, isn’t it, at this anxious Brexit-time? Aren’t we hungry for someone (anyone!?) who might offer certainty, consolation? Language is nothing if not political, and families are fiefdoms. ‘Do This! Don’t Do That!’ Desperate parents desperately attempting to assert authority…We wish to be accepted, loved and admired. We love authority, and we hate being controlled. Sometimes we’d like to be feared. These kids are fierce.
Etchells’ brilliant exposition culminates with the words we tell ourselves and each other, each and every day, exhausted, confused, angry, loving, funny…
‘It’s going to be OK.’
This event is now over but we will be following Forced Entertainment to see what they do next
London SE1 8XX
For some alternative entertainment ideas over the Christmas period how about Aladdin at the Hackney Empire or The RSC production of the Merry Wives of Windsor at The Barbican or The Night Before Christmas at Southwark Playhouse