The incredibly effective opening of The Coming Storm keeps it simple as the audience are greeted with a bare stage, six actors and one voice. We are introduced to the performance by Terri, who tells the audience what it is that makes a good story. Her beautiful tone of voice, captivating stage presence and subtle wit create a striking beginning to the Coming Storm story. Terri tells us “a good story should grab hold of you and never let you go” and this is exactly what The Coming Storm manages to achieve from the very beginning.
The almost tranquillizing voice of Terri is sharply interrupted as another actor snatches the microphone away from her, wanting a bit of air time for himself. This is where the story really begins. This basic premise of one voice telling the audience their story becomes a blank canvas for the whole production, which is constantly and colourfully painted throughout. A little repetitive yes, but a dull moment would be impossible to find.
At first, voice is only interrupted by voice and just as you begin to get drawn in, stories are left incomplete. Then the entire tone is elevated with the introduction of props. Tree branches and a white sheet, ball gowns and wigs, a noose and an electric chair, a variety of masks and even a crocodile costume makes an appearance as the stage is gradually littered with what appears to be the random contents of a prop cupboard. A chaotic battle for focus and attention breaks out as each voice struggles to tell their story without being interrupted.
To compliment the complex, confusing and constant action on stage the stories themselves begin to gain substance and rouse reactions. A balance between dramatic tension, heartfelt emotion and the light hearted leaves the audience laughing one minute, and with goosebumps the next. The plot thickens when realization sets in that the stories aren’t real and the cast start to talk like actors, arguing about the material and structure of the production. The line between reality and fiction is blurred and the audience are left here to question the concept of performance itself.
Forced Entertainment pride themselves in their ability to excite, frustrate, challenge, question and entertain and The Coming Storm more than achieves this whirlwind of emotion. It is a striking, engaging and highly memorable production which playfully throws the idea of traditional theatre out of the window.