Reviewed – 1st October 2018
“informative and thoughtful, but not emotionally resonant”
“You have a problem” reads a message in Martin’s phone in Timeless. It goes on to describe how he suffers from anterograde amnesia – a condition preventing him from creating new short-term memories and rendering him unable to remember anything past April 2008. This is the central idea of Brian Coyle’s one-man play; however, it never feels like it’s expanded on meaningfully throughout its one-hour runtime.
Martin largely addresses the audience about how his life works with the condition and how his family and friends – specifically his wife Tracey and his friend Neil – cope with the day to day strains of a man for whom the last ten years are a blank, although there are also brief flashbacks interspersed. There is an underlying story that develops, centred around Martin and Tracey’s relationship, but it is so clearly foreshadowed within the first twenty minutes that it becomes repetitive to see it play out exactly as expected. However, Timeless mostly forgoes a standard plot in favour of ruminations on memory, and how if the way an event is remembered or misremembered defines someone’s actions, then Martin not being able to remember anything possibly leaves him without a real sense of identity. This is where the script shines the most, as some psychologically complex ideas are delivered in an accessible and charming way.
John Rayment delivers an excellent performance as Martin, frequently elevating the material and providing an endearing earnestness to the character. It’s a testament to Rayment’s talent that, practically on his own except for a few props in the minimalistic set, he keeps the audience consistently enamoured. However, this is occasionally discordant with what we learn about Martin as the play develops, and it would’ve been a more layered performance had Rayment and director Charlotte Peters found moments to coax out the less earnest sides of the character. Additionally, there were a number of moments where Martin perpetuates outdated gender roles such as by demanding his wife make him a cup of tea, which felt unnecessary when not utilised to make a point about these issues.
And within that lies the main structural issue of Timeless – it was difficult to understand why this story was being told. Anterograde amnesia isn’t a common condition, and the play seemed unwilling to place it in the wider context of a more relatable issue, which subsequently made it informative and thoughtful, but not emotionally resonant. With further drafts from Brian Coyle that are able to let the audience empathise more, and with perhaps additional actors that let us see Martin’s relationships play out dynamically, Timeless has a lot of potential that currently feels hazy and distant.
Reviewed by Tom Francis
Photography courtesy Mixed Up Theatre
Theatre N16 until 4th October
Previously reviewed at this venue: