To Move In Time

Tim Etchells
Forced Entertainment
Birmingham Rep

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Tyrone Huggins Credit: Hugo Glendinning

This is Forced Entertainment’s fortieth anniversary year, and to mark the occasion, they are touring a number of shows, including To Move In Time, which was first performed in 2019. In it, a solo actor, Tyrone Huggins, presents a series of speculations, all beginning with, "if I could travel back in time".

At first, he is modestly altruistic: he would help a friend find their lost jacket or make them late for work to avoid a traffic accident. Then he gets more ambitious: he could prevent the assassination of Martin Luther King and the birth of Hitler. Or he could get rich, place bets on outcomes he already knows or buy shares which will rise in value. He soon gets bogged down in the consequences, though. He might end up constantly assessing every current event to see if he should go back in time to fix it. He might need to travel forwards in time as well in case his manipulation of the past had future adverse consequences that haven’t revealed themselves in the present.

Before long, there could be dozens of versions of him, zooming backwards and forwards in time, changing things and correcting the changes. What if he accidentally stopped the aeroplane being invented? Or he causes a war to break out? Or evolution never happened (The Simpsons’ 1994 Treehouse Of Horror V episode covered similar ground). And maybe bad events are good for you? What kind of person would you be if you prevented every mishap and never had to learn to cope with adversity?

Twenty minutes into the show, a new verbal motif emerges: "as I said already". The piece we are watching is being performed in time, so it began in the past and it is starting to loop round on itself. His speculations continue: there might be something about the nature of time that means you could only visit the past without changing it. Perhaps a different superpower might be better instead, like flying or breathing under water?

He reaches a rather Eckhart Tolle, mindfulness conclusion. Be present, now. Those significant moments you might want to change didn’t all happen in the past; they are happening at every moment of every day. Each second is a new opportunity to make a positive change in your life. That was one. And another. The show ends with the repeated line, "and one more. And one more" as the stage fades to blackout.

Tyrone Huggins is a confident and engaging performer. There is no set, he simply stands in the middle of a circle of prompt cards and speaks. The cards look a bit like a clock face—it is a show about time after all. But they have words like ‘canteen’, ‘swear’, ‘stop’, ‘spend’, ‘truth’ and ‘precious’ on them, so they might be a practical aide memoire with key words to jog his memory if he gets stuck.

In true postdramatic, Forced Entertainment style, Huggins is not playing a character, he is not in a fictional place or time and there is no narrative. He is here, now, with us. We were reminded to turn off our phones on the way into the theatre, so he wants us to be present with him, too. Presence is a big thing in Forced Entertainment’s work, and it is well suited to the theme of To Move In Time. The show is fifty minutes long, but it could have ended after twenty, or it could be the basis for one of Forced Entertainment’s all-day durational pieces. It is as much a piece of conceptual performance art as a play, and you could imagine him doing it in an art gallery, Marina Abramovich-style, with visitors offering their own, ‘if I could travel back in time’ scenarios.

In the tick-tock, big-show-little-show rhythm of Forced Entertainment’s work, this is very much a chamber piece. It explores an interesting idea in an interesting way and it invites the audience to pause and reflect, which is no bad thing.

Reviewer: Andrew Cowie

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