“the effect is ultimately hypnotic rather than captivating”
To Move in Time is first on the bill for week five of Now 19, The Yard’s yearly festival in which it invites ten contemporary theatre makers at the top of their game to perform. The Yard is a theatre that, rightly, has a reputation for supporting new work and giving makers a platform to experiment and expose new stories and ways of telling them; a reputation matched by Tim Etchells and his collaborative team of thirty years standing, Forced Entertainment, in whose crucible To Move in Time was forged.
The piece was created with and for the performer Tyrone Huggins, and is an hour long monologue exploring the possibilities of time travel. We are invited to join Huggins in his mental wanderings as he repeatedly muses, ‘If I could travel in time….’. It’s a simple premise, in which theatre is stripped back to its story-telling core, and as such invites the audience to really focus on the words. This is a big ask, in a world of continual visual stimulation, and a necessary one too. But in order for it to work – for an audience to be held captivated for a full hour – both the tale and its teller need to be exceptionally bewitching. Unfortunately, both fell somewhat short on this occasion.
Tim Etchell’s monologue roots itself in our shared consciousness. When presented with time travel as a hypothetical option, most of us will have had similar ideas: of correcting historical mistakes – from remembering to press Save on the computer, to preventing the birth of Stalin; of playing practical jokes on our friends; of getting rich quick by placing bets on known outcomes. This familiarity, which is initially engaging, begins to lose its grip relatively quickly however, and the power of the words is reduced, giving the performance the status of an endless, slightly exhausting anecdote.
Similarly, Tyrone Huggins has a personable quality in performance, and a lovely speaking voice – gentle and mellow – but his tone is so even throughout, that the effect is ultimately hypnotic rather than captivating. There are moments of poetry – ‘If I could dissolve metal with my tears’ – but these are sadly few and far between, and, although the final few seconds have discernible magic, it feels too little too late.
Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw
Photography by Maurizio Martorana
To Move in Time
The Yard Theatre until 16th February as part of Now 19 Festival
“Ibsen’s work is full of discomfort and awkwardness, of course, but in order for the audience to feel it, the actors need to have an inner freedom and confidence on stage which is sadly lacking here”
The Lady from the Sea tells the story of Ellida, taken as a second wife by Wangel after the death of his first, and uprooted from her upbringing as a lighthouse-keeper’s daughter to live with him and his two daughters in a small town, away from the open sea. In common with Ibsen’s other work, the play is full of ghosts from the past – of Wangel’s first wife, of Ellida and Wangel’s dead infant son, and of Ellida’s mysterious seafaring lover, who eventually appears to try to claim her. In keeping with the other great theme running through the plays, Ellida and the two girls all yearn for freedom and self-determination, and struggle against the various stifling forces ranged against them. It is unusual in one respect however: in that, although the future for Wangel’s girls remains unclear, Ellida, at the play’s close, has exorcised her demons and come to a place of health, peace and inner freedom, in such a way that she is able to remain with her husband and they can begin truly to love one another, in a way that had previously been impossible.
This production is the second collaboration with Kåre Conradi, Artistic Director of The Norwegian Ibsen Company, and the first in which the cast speak in both English and Norwegian (the last, Little Eyolf, was entirely in Norwegian). The bilingual aspect is deftly handled, and, for the most part, the surtitles projected on to the backdrop work well and are strangely unintrusive. What is noticeable however, is that the company’s leading lady, Pia Tjelta, has a physical and vocal freedom in her native language which leave her when she is acting in English. This is perhaps understandable, but unfortunately, with the notable exception of Adrian Rawlins – wonderfully believable as the beleaguered Wangel – all the other actors in this production seem physically uncomfortable throughout, and totally disconnected from the truth of the material. This has the unfortunate effect of steering many of the play’s more intense moments into near farce. Ibsen’s work is full of discomfort and awkwardness, of course, but in order for the audience to feel it, the actors need to have an inner freedom and confidence on stage which is sadly lacking here. Similarly, vocal delivery is frequently stilted and mannered, and the characters’ actions on stage too often showed a directorial desire for a pleasing stage picture rather than stemming from the intent of the characters themselves.
Nils Petter Molvær’s stunning original music featured in strong underscoring throughout, but too often was entirely responsible for generating atmosphere that was lacking on stage. And despite his best efforts, and the highly charged nature of the script, this production remained at a distance from the mercurial and turbulent sea at its heart.