The Possible Impossible House

Exeunt speaks to Forced Entertainment’s Tim Etchells about making the company’s first children’s show, The Possible Impossible House, in collaboration with visual artist Vlatka Horvat.
ALICE SAVILLE

Forced Entertainment have been making experimental performance work since 1984. But behind the forbidding impression this opening sentence creates, there’s plenty of joy, messiness and imagination that’s ready to be injected into the new territory of making work for children.

As Tim Etchells explains, “the impulse to make something for kids has been there for a long time, since different people in the company have had kids. Once the kids started to arrive you see the influence of that on the work; props or songs or story structures or images that belong in children’s stories kept creeping in.” Now, they’re letting these influences in through the front door, by collaborating with Vlatka Horvat to explore the idea of a house where “things would happen in different ways or strange things that would happen.” I wondered if it was influenced by 1927’s The Animals And Children Took To The Streets, and Etchell’s cites “a big endless list of children’s books that use the device of a familiar environment that has somehow been transformed or is transforming. There was an inkling we’d access that sort of magical territory through Vlatka Horvat’s work.” Known for her installations, here she makes surreal, melancholy collages which spring from the pages of a girl’s algebra book.

Where 1927’s impossible apartment block populated a vast stage, this piece “uses projection, but not in a spectacular full screen way. We’re making quite small projections on bits of cardboard that performers are holding, with objects that you observe or strange characters you meet. You might look over at the corner of the room and there on the cardboard appears a drawing of a mouse, or a soldier.” Etchells is intrigued by  the way that “those homemade, rather chaotic things produce something magical and you’re transported to a different place. It’s this doubleness of theatre’s ordinariness and everyday qualities, and its extraordinary capacity to summon other worlds, narratives and stories .”