Battersea Arts Centre, 12 – 15 May 2010
Reviewed for the British Theatre Guide
What must we all look like, staring into our screens, Googling and Facebooking and Twittering? Only one man has the perspective to tell us, and the only way he knows how to tell us is with props cobbled together out of cardboard and masking tape.
Will Adamsdale is 36, and didn’t send his first email until the year 2005. The Human Computer is both a confession and a defence of his IT incompetence, and an attempt at both confrontation and reconciliation with his whirring, beeping nemesis.
It’s also a clumsy, ramshackle mess of a show, as scrappily constructed as the cardboard cursors and dialog boxes he wields and flings around the stage.
There is a rough three-act structure lurking under all the pasted-on stuff and business. The first, a sort of stand-up routine recounting Adamsdale’s history of stubbornly avoiding technology, is not the most engaging possible opening, and in hindsight appears to exist mainly to set up gags that will pay off later.
The second act, in which Adamsdale transforms the stage into a cardboard computer screen and invites the audience – armed with a pointer on a stick – to browse his hard drive for anecdotes, songs and silly dances, is simply inspired. As if his pitch-perfect satire of the Windows startup sequence wasn’t enough, there’s also the guiltily, gleefully enjoyable potential for the audience to catch the performer out, to overclock him or simply make him squirm – and his ‘programs’ are amongst the most genuinely funny material in the show.
As for the final third – well, imagine Tron, as written and performed by a Luddite with an unlimited supply of corrugated card and felt-tip pens, and you’re approaching the right idea.
The rickety construction of both the stage and the script is clearly deliberate, and for much of the show it actually holds together surprisingly well considering the whole thing’s propped up on charm and positive thinking. But inevitably there comes a moment when Adamsdale’s energy lets up just long enough for the audience to breathe, take a step back and gain some perspective; and in that moment the show is lost, because perspective unhelpfully reminds us that, theatrical or not, what we’re actually seeing is not a human computer but a man waving a cardboard arrow and talking like Tim Nice But Dim.
Written by Will Adamsdale
Crew includes Kate McGrath (dramaturg)
Cast includes Will Adamsdale (himself, various)
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