Camden Fringe 2018: Timeless at Hen & Chickens Theatre
Staring at our smartphones may be a trend, but for Martin – who has had amnesia since 2008 – his phone is his lifeline. Authored by Brian Coyle and directed by Charlotte Peters, Camden Fringe’s Timeless depicts the plight of a London cab driver who, having had no short-term recollection for ten years, is unable to make any new memories, and – as in the film Groundhog Day – repeatedly returns to his last cognizance, a visit to the dentist. Besides daily prompts from his beleaguered wife, the only way Martin (John Rayment) can keep abreast of things is by writing notes to himself on his phone, reminding himself of his condition and what he did three hours prior.
A one-man show, this production presents a poignant exposé of a man struggling to remember, shifting his thoughts from one possibility to another. Are his flashbacks real or wishful thinking, truth or paranoia? At first the character’s monologue might sound like the rantings of a psychotic, until his predicament becomes clear. His torment is that of being permanently stuck in the moment, not knowing how he arrived there, with only his distant past as a reference point, questioning and provoking questions from the viewer. Did his spouse leave him? Did she cheat on him or remain faithful? Was he betrayed by his best friend?
London taxi drivers are to be lauded for their remarkable encyclopedic expertise – knowing every nook and cranny of the city by rote – thanks to a legendary training programme called “The Knowledge”. It is a sad irony that Martin still knows London like the back of his hand but he can’t recall what he had for breakfast, unfit to work as a cabbie anymore because of his affliction. As with Alzheimer’s and dementia, such a disorder undermines our core as reasoning beings: “Isn’t your memory what makes you who you are?” Martin asks. His perplexed agony is heartbreaking, yet he is also philosophical, glad in a way to live in the now, to be able to forget certain events.
Coyle’s praiseworthy writing is intelligent, thought-provoking and human as it successfully attempts to express the pain and confusion of amnesia. Rayment admirably portrays the protagonist with great skill and sensitivity.
As per Descartes: “I think therefore I am”. A moving exploration of the distress and disorientation of memory loss, Timeless is a stirring, illuminative piece about that which shapes us: the mind.
Camden Fringe 2018: Timeless is at Hen & Chickens Theatre from 10th August until 11th August 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.