Edinburgh Fringe 2012
Previous Fringe First winners for ‘An Instinct For Kindness’, return with ‘Hand Over Fist’, a one-woman show about coping with Alzheimer’s. An increasingly common but ever relevant subject, which is intimately dealt with in this gently impressive production.
The piece opens with an elderly woman, Emily, talking to her lover, she has to leave him. But as it progresses and both her relationship with her lover and her encounter with a man at the bar unfold, what is real and what is not blurs. Indeed by the end, the truth is rendered irrelevant, it is the understanding that is important. We are lead on a merry trip through the corridor of Emily’s brain as she tries to retell the first moments of meeting a lover.
Joanna Bending plays a beautiful Emily – sometimes elderly, frail and lost, other times virile and energetic engrossed in her story. And the story itself leaps and bounds as she traverses her memories. Repeatedly coming back to one beginning but endlessly taking us off in another direction. Slowly a reality starts to take shape and we realise that although we may not know quite which way she met ‘Josh’, what matters is it happened.
Dave Florez’s script is never patronising or overly sentimental; rather it is to the point, representing the unedited flow of consciousness of just one sufferer of Alzheimer’s. And this more than anything makes it so painful and touching. There is a sense of inevitability about the piece – there is nothing we can do for Emily, but watch. Florez’s script is simultaneously funny, heartbreaking and crude. This latter does perhaps prevent one from utterly empathising with Emily – but a certain distance is no bad thing, it allows us to come to terms with the story from a wider perspective.
Hannah Eidenow’s direction stands clear; a five time Fringe First Winner she expertly draws us in to Emily’s mind, her worries and losses, her hopes and her fears and most importantly her dawning realisation that she is changing irrevocably and it is completely beyond her control. The three together (writer, actor, director) make a formidable team and Hand Over Fist is a show not to be missed.