Review: Forced Entertainment Live Up To Their Name In The Notebook

The Notebook, Battersea Arts Centre ★★☆☆☆

Tom Bolton
By Tom Bolton Last edited 32 months ago
Review: Forced Entertainment Live Up To Their Name In The Notebook The Notebook, Battersea Arts Centre 2
Photo by Hugo Glendinning

Forced Entertainment's artistic director, Tim Etchells, has described the creative process of their devised shows as “sculpting the fog”. But there is inherent risk in teasing coherent performance from elusive material, and unfortunately, The Notebook falls into the category of failed experiment.

The play is based on a celebrated novel by Hungarian writer Ágota Kristóf; the Second World War forces a mother to send her twin sons to live with their grandmother, known locally as 'The Witch'. To deal with the horrors of conflict that soon unfold around them, the unnamed boys develop their own cold, moral logic, making sure they get what is “absolutely necessary” to them. Turning in on themselves, they blackmail and murder without hesitation to survive successive waves of German and Russian soldiers.

The production is simple: Robin Arthur and Richard Lowdon — dressed identically and equipped with two chairs and two notebooks — announce each chapter title and read the adapted novel, often in unison, sometimes in counterpoint. This is theatre on the edge of watchability, more a radio play than a performance, with physical elements stripped almost entirely away.

During the first hour the twins and their immoral yet logical world produce moments of humour and pathos — from the holes they drill to spy on their grandmother to their relationship with an abused girl called Harelip. But on the whole this production remains lost in the mists.

The Notebook by Forced Entertainment runs at the Battersea Arts Centre until 14 November. Tickets £15 (£12 concessions) Londonist saw the production on a complementary ticket.

Last Updated 05 November 2015