It’s a bleak indictment of the times when a wordless, 90-minute clown brawl feels like an apt metaphor for any number of aspects of our cultural moment.
Out of Order, from boundary-pushing collective Forced Entertainment, is a wry, melancholic performance piece that evocatively reflects the alienating absurdity all around us.
Devised by the company, the show is built around a repeating sequence of tragicomic tableaux featuring overturned tables, funeral marches, and abortive scuffles. With no dialogue or overarching narrative, the audience is invited not so much to find meaning between the lines as to superimpose our own.
Performers trudge in circles, laden with furniture, and we might be reminded of refugees fleeing with their possessions. An escalating argument featuring half a dozen honking horns can’t help but feel like reading the online comments under a controversial article.
It’s energetically performed by a committed, six-strong cast, identically costumed in burgundy tartan suits and miserable, sweat-streaked face paint. While there are no distinct characters here, the performers eloquently convey a range of recognisable emotional responses to the escalating chaos, meeting each new routine with antagonism, playfulness, or glowering incomprehension.
Director and company founder-member Tim Etchells orchestrates the chaos with restrained finesse, switching fluidly between moments of stillness and passages of hyperactivity that eventually grind down to intentionally tedious anticlimaxes.
After balletic dances and exhausting chases, it ultimately ends neither with a bang nor a whimper, but the sad flop of a deflated balloon landing on a bare stage.