Review: Out of Order, Home Manchester

Forced Entertainment’s Out of Order marks a return of the Sheffield-based theatre company to HOME, following on from their last performance of Real Magic at the venue in 2017. This vigorously absurdist and very timely performance comprised of physical, wordless action (that the company of six actors pack tautly into a 90 minute production) is impressive. Within the physicality of chaos is an urgent, uncanny metaphor for a society where communication has become obsolete, and hostile peace inevitably gives way to an uncontainable, frenzied, and violent disorder.

The stage begins bare, with the exception of a wooden table and chairs, and ends with a debris of props littered across the stage. A group of eight performers, their faces adorned with makeup resembling clown masks and wearing identical suits, take a number of props–horns, balloons and chairs–and use these as weapons and shields, at times to great comedic effect. An hour of chaos ensues, made up of repeating and alternating sequences. 

Moments of tranquillity erupt when the actors (all of them identical, none of them identifiable or given names) engage in a silent, but aggressive conflict; they wrestle and throw each other to the ground. In one sequence, one of them attempts to escape the group and cause chaos, only to be restrained by the other member; a brilliant, metaphorical representation of an attempt to suppress anarchy. The action is incredibly and extraordinarily physical; chairs are thrown, tables are lifted and pushed around, balloons are inflated and deflated, horns are goadingly blown in faces. The disorder is akin to a playground game gone terribly wrong–an astute representation of the inane, cyclical violence and conflict that defines our modern era.

With this carefully choreographed chaos, the actors do a brilliant job of conveying emotion both within the moments of struggle and conflict, and the brief silences, which carry remarkable tension. Every gesture is carefully depicted, and intelligible even within this unclear and abstract context.

All in all, this performance is an extraordinary and skilfully orchestrated metaphor and microcosm for a world perpetually on the edge of chaos.

Out of Order is on tour in the UK and across Europe. For dates and tickets, visit the Forced Entertainment website.