Defrag at the Camden People’s Theatre
A deep, personal journey through the technology of the mind, Defrag focuses on one man’s struggle to “defrag” his own memory in order to process the trauma of his past. Previewed at Sprint Festival 2012 and presented as part of the Futureshock Festival, Defrag tests the boundaries of intimacy and expansiveness in contemporary theatre.
The Camden People’s Theatre is located on a busy London street, yet a friendly glow emanating from an open doorway is the only clue that you are in the right place. Once found, though, a warm welcome and a complimentary glass of wine is served in a foyer as comfortable as your own sitting room. The contrast between this and the theatre is striking; a perfect place for “mitigating the space outside”, the small and bleak space is a blank canvas to be interpreted.
Although the rampaging noise is a constant reminder that we are, in fact, in a theatre and not in the subconscious mind of a struggling character, writer-director-and-performer Tom Lyall endeavours to capture the audience’s attention through a tight and witty script.
An introductory monologue aids the start of our journey by relating the similarities between the human mind and a computer programme. In the act of defragging the mind, a technology enthusiast wistfully imagines how it would tidy the “filing system of the mind”, creating a fully functioning and faster processing machine.
Centre stage is Tom, a broken man who obsesses over a programme named Madeleine. A relationship develops between them, and as humankind is faced with the end of the world, Tom faces a dark struggle to choose between the technological and the human world.
Heavy in metaphor, deep in meaning, but light and effortless in performance, Lyall acts with absolute dedication and expression. The lighting by Cis O’Boyle has great impact to the overall ambience of the play, adding symbolic definition when the meaning was lost. Sadly, this happens often and though the intelligence and skill behind this piece is clear, the character of Tom sometimes appears unrelatable.
This said, the intimacy of the Camden People’s Theatre is the perfect setting to experience this clever and thought-provoking play. Script and space join together to confuse, yet fight to engage our senses.
Photos: Rachel Ferriman