The centre of a language storm: Tim Etchells on ‘To Move In Time’

In To Move In Time actor Tyrone Huggins is at the centre of a language storm, chasing thoughts about time travel – fantasies of intervening in daily life, of getting rich, of changing history – pursuing the ‘if’ that drives this text, in a kind of rolling and transforming speculation about himself and his place in the world.

Someone is talking. It’s a voice that is making something happen – a story or stories, a set of ideas and impossible possibilities – but it’s a voice that is somehow at the same time unravelling those same thoughts, doubting or even cancelling them. The voice comes and goes in ebbs and flows, twists and turns – veering this way and that, chasing and then changing directions. It’s a voice that is speaking in public – engaging, keen to explain and be clear – but at the same time a voice of someone who could be speaking to himself, in the middle of the night perhaps, looking out from a window… Or perhaps more like the voice in someone’s head that is making something happen there, kicking over the traces – a story, a set of impossible possibles – but at the same time somehow unravelling, doubting, even cancelling.

With Forced Entertainment I’ve done many projects where the role of language is the focused procession of single images packed into short vivid sentences, for Speak Bitterness, Dirty Work or Tomorrow’s Parties, for instance. Alongside those, there has long been an interest in some more tangled manifestation of speech – as web or torrent, spillage, rip-tide or unmanageable flow. The sheer amount of text that comprises Forced Entertainment performances, such as Speak Bitterness, Quizoola! or And On The Thousandth Night… in their improvised manifestations over the years might be a good indication for that, as might the kinds of monologues that dip and sometimes tumble to the surface in the more theatrical of our pieces, such as First Night or The World in Pictures. Language not so much as a precision instrument but rather as fluid force, knot or process.

Perhaps the most concentrated version of this approach to language as tangle or torrent – lies in a pair of my hour-long monologue pieces – Although We Fell Short and Sight is the Sense That Dying People Tends to Lose Firston which I have worked with Kate McIntosh and Jim Fletcher respectively. Jim and Kate, both performers drawn from outside of the regular Forced Entertainment team, each bring a specific performance energy to bear on a troubled tangle of text – attempts to describe the world (all of it, but in no particular order) in Sight is the Sense and to give sense to the intercutting fragments of contradictory, garbled political speeches in Although We Fell Short. And in both of these pieces, the theatrical language is crushed down to a single element – a person standing, speaking – and the focus directed to the core activity of speaking-as-thinking or thought process.

Watching To Move In Time during Sheffield rehearsals, I’m getting pulled into its rhythms of excitement, free-association and doubt as Tyrone pushes through the landscape of comic-book conundrums and paradoxes, half-remembered science fiction or movie plots, personal obsessions and stories that take him to the heart of the text. What seems clear, as he approaches that place, is that there is a kind of strange shift or deferral, where the obsession with the spectacular and absurd possibilities of time travel slowly gives way to something more intimate – an obsession with time itself, with the situation and dilemmas we all face in our daily lives, living together in a world that can’t easily be changed, reversed or made better by some easy trick.


Tim Etchells, 2019.