Don’t kids just say the funniest things? Well, maybe not in Tim Etchells and Forced Entertainment’s show That Night Follows Day – or if they do, it’s only because they are parroting the words of adults.
Performed by a chorus of 17 eight to 14-year-olds from London, Etchells’ text is a litany of things that adults say to them, addressed to an adult audience: “You tell us that rules are rules”, “You ask us to explain memes”, “You teach us that 2 times 3 is 6”. It ranges from curriculum facts, to rules and restrictions of varying arbitrariness, to warnings about the dangers of the world.
Perspective shifts fluidly between that of the children (annoyance at being constantly filmed by their parents, for instance), and a more knowing voice (“You wonder if we’re going to pull through”). It’s here that you sense Etchells’ hand at work and the text is all too aware of the ironic gesture of an adult putting words into children’s mouths. Central here is the potency and danger of language – the way that it shapes, limits, indoctrinates and grants permission.
And although it is an inevitably lovely thing to watch children perform, the show has sharp edges – there is something unambiguously accusatory about the line that the children stand in at the front of the stage – a united front against the sea of adults sat in the dark – and the way that the (truly remarkable) performers attack the text, taking each phrase slowly, chewing over the words we have fed them and spitting them back out at us.