The Coming Storm


JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE COMING STORM at Tramway, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 11.10.13.

3 stars ***

If you listen to BBC Radio 4 some evenings at 6.30, or at 11.00, you will hear a kind of comedy based on an exceptionally clear and rigid view of human nature. The idea is that all human beings are just big, shallow, greedy, self-obsessed babies, and that anyone who ever pretends to be anything more is only a hypocrite awaiting exposure. As theories of human nature go, this one is both evidently false, and completely reactionary in its implications; but it exercises a fierce grip on the minds of a generation who have been brought up to believe that any human attempt to improve the world is bound to end in failure.

Forced Entertainment’s show The Coming Storm – which appeared at the Tramway on Thursday, to be followed on Friday by Tomorrow’s Parties – is something like a 2-hour exploration of this idea of humanity, created by one of Britain’s leading experimental performance groups. The show takes the form of a series of attempts by each of the six performers to tell stories, attempts constantly interrupted and undermined by the noisy attention-seeking of the others. Some of the stories are poignant and even resonant; the one about the dying mum, the one about the woman in a famine choosing which child to let die.

As a whole, though, the show is far too complicit with the reductive mindset it sets out to investigate, and far too clearly aimed at an audience of arts professionals who enjoy a sustained in-joke about the alleged self-absorption and attention-seeking of the average theatre artist. There is a huge amount of performing talent in the Forced Entertainment company; but in the end, the most radical thing about this show is its title, which prefigures a crisis in which all this self-obsessed infantilism will finally, for better or worse, be swept away.



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