Entertainment & Arts

Sheffield's Forced Entertainment win International Ibsen Award

Forced Entertainment's Richard Lowdon, Tim Etchells, Claire Marshall, Cathy Naden, Terry O'Connor and Robin Arthur Image copyright Hugo Glendinning
Image caption Forced Entertainment was founded in 1984 and have performed across the world

Theatre company Forced Entertainment have become the first group to win the prestigious International Ibsen Award.

The biennial award, which rewards those who bring "new artistic dimensions to drama or theatre", has previously only been given to individuals.

The Sheffield group's artistic director, Tim Etchells, said they were "honoured" to get such recognition.

Named after Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, the prize is funded by the Norwegian government.

A spokesman for the award said the group - made up of Robin Arthur, Tim Etchells, Richard Lowdon, Claire Marshall, Cathy Naden and Terry O'Connor - had been chosen as "a recognition and appreciation of theatre as a collective art form, and of the theatre's importance within society".

Image copyright Hugo Glendinning
Image caption The National Theatre's Rufus Norris said the group were "challenging" and "always provocative"

"Forced Entertainment have created their own performative space within the history of theatre - here, theatrical conventions are played out, and they are torn apart," he said.

"This influential theatre group is a group that recognises the theatre as a central voice within society, and which sincerely and with dedication, uses theatre as an arena for public debate; an open, reflexive and poetic space with ethical and social value."

Etchells said the company, who were also awarded prize money of 300,000 euros, were "very happy" to be named as winners alongside such a "formidable" list.

'Profound influence'

Forced Entertainment was founded in 1984 with the aim of "exploring and exploding the conventions of genre, narrative and theatre itself", a company spokeswoman said.

The group produce everything from small two-person pieces to large-scale productions, and have put on shows and events across the world.

Arts Council England's executive director for arts and culture, Simon Mellor, said the award was "a fitting tribute to Forced Entertainment's 30-year history of producing startlingly original work".

"[It is] a recognition of their far-reaching and profound influence on the contemporary theatre and performance scene," he said.

Image copyright Hugo Glendinning
Image caption The company are renowned for their original, collaborative and often striking work

Rufus Norris, the National Theatre's artistic director, added that the company had been "a constant reminder that the way that we make work in the mainstream is only one very narrow way of making work".

"They are challenging, they are always provocative. They are prepared to have a real proper conversation with their audience," he said.

Previous winners of the award, announced to coincide with the 19th Century playwright's birthday, include Austrian writer Peter Handke, French stage director Ariane Mnouchkine, Norwegian dramatist Jon Fosse and German composer Heiner Goebbels.

It was first awarded in 2008 to English theatre and film director Peter Brook.

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