Founder member of Forced Entertainment Huw Chadbourn is currently on the verge of success in his other incarnation, as keyboard player with critically tipped band Baby Bird. Chadbourn was on stage in Paris as his latest theatre show opened in Battersea, but Baby Bird provide taped musical backing to his engaging if hollow three-hander.
"Theatrical" pieces in which the performers deliver their lines into downstage microphones can become annoying. The mikes and stands, whilst they accentuate the artificiality of the performance, diminish the sense of a normal theatrical transaction between performers and audience; the players are palpably inhabiting a different space from the spectators, and it is all too easy to come over as self-indulgent and hermetic. This impression is limited in Nothing Lasts Forever, partly by involving the punters – before the show begins we are asked to fill in voting slips for a happy or a sad ending – and also by poking fun at the unnaturalness of the form. Players question each other on their roles, get summarily ejected from scenes they should not be in and fall prey to vaudeville-style confusion when switching characters and costumes.
The nominal story is that of boxer Roy, who agrees for the best of motives to one more fight which could kill him, because the pay-off he will get for taking a dive will buy a home for him and his girlfriend. It is, though, little more than a hook on which to hang musings about identity: people's roles, ambitions, histories and the extent to which their paths may or may not be predestined, not least by an audience vote. At one point the trio even don T-shirts on which are printed pithy, cynical descriptions of their characters. It is plain that Frank Bock is only playing Roy, a choice of persona for which he is repeatedly criticised by his comrades – Tamzin Griffin, with a Jo Brand-like deprecating style of delivery, and Sarah Tutt, more animated but less precise in distinguishing between the player and her roles.
It all makes for an entertaining and mildly stimulating 70 minutes, but the questions raised are vague and desultory; the show feels more like just something to do rather than something that had to be done. Perhaps Chadbourn should consider trying to integrate his band more closely with a theatrical performance, as jazz keyboardist Django Bates did recently (although Baby Bird might balk at the series of low-key Barbra Streisand references peppered through the script). As it is, Nothing Lasts Forever is amiable, playful and clever, but does not particularly seem to be for anything.
Written for the Financial Times.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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