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Review of CTRL+ALT+DELETE at Camden People’s Theatre

Emma Packer - Photo credit David Packer
Emma Packer – Photo credit David Packer

If proof were ever needed not to judge a book by its cover, or in this case, a play by its title, there’s not an electronic gadget in sight in CTRL + ALT + DELETE, and very little, if any, reference to restarting anything, physically or metaphorically speaking. Technically speaking (ahem) the so-called ‘three finger salute’ is related to the facilitation of interrupting a function, and it can be argued that Amy Jones (Emma Packer) is trying to do something drastic with her not implausibly dysfunctional current position in life.

With no set except a chair, itself not always used, the show relies entirely on the solo actor and her words (Packer is playwright as well as performer), and the strong dialect termed by sociologists as ‘Multicultural London English’ took some getting used to at first, at least for me. Frankly, it felt as though the script was being delivered as a form of rap at times. Elsewhere, the vocabulary used is not always commensurate with Jones being an apparently down-to- earth no-nonsense young mother. It is not entirely naturalistic, therefore, but, ideas and philosophies presented in the way they are here allow for succinctness in a production that might otherwise have become too rambling. There’s an almost poetic quality in places; other times, it crosses the line into rhyming couplets.

While this a compelling piece of drama, it was difficult to decipher what the point of it all was. The overriding salient point for me was that Jones’ mother was deeply unpleasant, and in Jones’ opinion, downright abusive, though quite why she never bothered even contemplating going to the police, or calling ‘ChildLine’, is never explored. But amongst this particular storyline are discussions about bereavement, childhood, adulthood, parenting, friendships, and family values. All of which are worthy subject areas to explore, but to include all in a one-act play seemed a tad excessive.

Then there’s the politics. The plot was extremely coherent and convincing up to the point of some random David Cameron-bashing, which was probably the ‘critical incident’ in the play – the one that changed its course irreversibly. In a later scene, there is a bizarre equating, if I understood correctly, of ‘Brexit’ to domestic violence – it all smacked of desperation. A motivational speech came across to me like a lecture, instructing the audience to think and conduct themselves in certain ways. It did not appeal to me very much at all. Let’s just say if I were to smile at strangers, say on the London Underground, I would probably be reported to a member of staff or a police officer, or otherwise punched in the face. This is London, not the Deep South.

Anyway, the play has a lot of potential if only it could zero in a smaller number of contemporary issues in society, and explore them in greater detail. As it is, it’s certainly an action-packed play with never a dull moment. The mixture of storytelling and acted out scenes helps to maintain interest, and it is clear Emma Packer is enjoying herself on stage. It’s not a bad play, really, but sometimes less really is more.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Ctrl+Alt+Delete by Emma Packer is a tale of resilience in the face of adversity.
Amy Jones from Brixton, is an emotionally charged girl with a strong political heart. Amy challenges the injustices of the world; where war rips communities apart, equality isn’t universal and your biggest enemies are sometimes the very ones who brought you into the world.

Presented by Emma Packer
8-9 Aug, 12-13 Aug, 15-16 Aug 2016 at 7.15pm


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