Polish premiere of the latest play by a legendary British group. Real Magic creates a world of absurd disconnection, struggle and comical repetition. To the sound of looped applause and canned laughter, a group of performers take part in an impossible illusion – part mind-reading feat, part cabaret act, part chaotic game show – in which they endlessly revisit moments of defeat, hope and anticipation. Caught in a world of second-chances and second-guesses, variations and changes, distortions and transformations, Real Magic takes the audience on a hallucinatory journey, creating a compelling performance about optimism, individual agency and the desire for change.

Beckett meets trash TV

Devilishly simple and fiendishly intricate
“The Guardian”

In the performance we’re working with quotation, with images and scenes that at least feel like they are borrowed from something else, in this case from the world of TV game show or absurdist cabaret mind-reading routine. We’re also working with ideas about repetition, replaying and transformation, which have been part of our work for a long time, but which are present here in a more extreme and focused form. We’re always very interested in restriction, and in a sense, we think of every project we’ve made as operating inside a particular set of constraints and limits – the limit is the thing that makes a performance what it is, gives it its flavour, its landscape, its particular take and energy. Very often when creating performances, we’ve set ourselves the task of seeing how far we can go inside a particular language or restriction, how far we can push it – to breaking point, and, if possible, beyond. There’s something for us in this process about demanding that the work onstage has to live with the consequences of decisions we’ve made in it along the way. We don’t allow ourselves to change things onstage just for the sake of it, just for effect; instead we want there to be a thorough working-through of material and language, so that what happens is “earned”, arising from the process, logic and parameters of the work at hand, rather than a gratuitous display of moves.

Real Magic, takes this kind of line, and whilst its raw material comes from pop culture, it seeks to question things more broadly, picking at the complex political place we find ourselves in these days – down the bumpy road to Brexit, in the dark realm of Trump. Of course this is what we’ve always been concerned with: making a relation between the work we do inside the theatre and the wider world beyond it. Ever since our performances like Showtime (1998) and First Night (2001) – with their hints of vaudeville, cabaret and pantomime – we’ve tended to understand these theatrical deconstructions and critiques as attempts to speak about much more pernicious economies of spectacle, representation and social relations in the landscape outside the theatre. Real Magic makes such an attempt also, the honey trap and hall of mirrors of its impossible game show (“a game show where there are only losers” as one critic wrote) a distorted echo of the place we seem to have come to at this point in the 21st century; the triple-bind of destructive capitalism, escalating globalisation and economic austerity, the kind of freedom that is not really freedom at all, the rigged game.

Tim Etchells, “Hall of Mirrors: A Note on Real Magic”

Conceived and devised by the company

Tim Etchells

Devised with and Performed by
Jerry Killick, Richard Lowdon and Claire Marshall

Created with input from
Robin Arthur and Cathy Naden

Lighting Design
Jim Harrison

Richard Lowdon

Production Management
Jim Harrison

Sound Technicians
Greg Akenhurst, Doug Currie

Project Assistant
Anna Krauss

Music Electronics & Sound Editing
John Avery

Tim Etchells

“Grave”, from Telemann’s Fantasia Number 1 in B-Flat Major
Aisha Orazbayeva

Forced Entertainment Creative Team
Robin Arthur, Tim Etchells (Artistic Director), Richard Lowdon (Designer), Claire Marshall, Cathy Naden and Terry O’Connor.

Forced Entertainment Management Team

Eileen Evans (Executive Director), Jim Harrison (Production Manager), Natalie Simpson (Office Manager), Callum Berridge (Marketing Intern)

Real Magic is a Forced Entertainment production. Co-produced by: PACT Zollverein Essen, HAU Hebbel Am Ufer Berlin, Künsterlhaus Moustonturm Frankfurt, Tanzquartier Wien Vienna, Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, University of Sussex and the Spalding Gray Consortium – On the Boards Seattle, PS122 NYC, Walker Art Center Minneapolis and Warhol Museum Pittsburgh.

Forced Entertainment is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation.