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Edinburgh Fringe 2019

Hold On, Let Go

Unfolding Theatre

Genre: Theatre

Venue: Summerhall


Low Down

Featuring bread-making, black holes and tinned cans, Hold On Let Go explores what we do in the face of forgetting.


A play that provides lime cordial as you go in and bread as you leave – that’s not to be scoffed at, is it? But if that’s all you can remember of the show…

Hold On, Let Go is an exploration of memory, what we remember and why. How come sometimes we can’t remember the big things and yet have clear fragments of seemingly insignificant moments? Unfolding Theatre’s new show is about memory and what we pass on and what we leave behind.

Luca (Luca Rutherford) is 56, Alex (Alex Elliott) is half his age. Alex is fascinated by memory – how we form it, how we retain it and what we leave behind. She muses over the more abstract physical questions of black matter and the closer ones of family history; she’s pushing at the boundaries, desperate for answers. We forget so much, she says, maybe tomorrow all we’ll remember of the show is the bread. Meanwhile Luca bumbles around quietly making bread and dispensing instructions on sourdough bread making, more concerned with the everyday than any legacy. Alex quizzes him about his mother who came over during the Spanish civil war and together they ‘do’ memory exploring, recreating and perhaps revising memories of Luca’s family life, opening cupboards to reveal twinkling lights among hoards of tins.

The set is a fascimile of a 1950s kitchen unit in lurid shades of orange and green and a table which start as an ordinary kitchen table, a place of breadmaking and conversation, but is continually upended throughout the show to form climbing apparatus. Alex, in particular, clambers up the precarious upended table and ramshackle set, seemingly unable to tether herself to the everyday, constantly navigating her way between past and present. Liv Lorent’s choreography gives an energy to the show. Luca and Alex form a wonderful double act: Luca, solid and calm in his character, Alex, questioning and restless. They counterbalance each other in a gentle exposition of the vagaries of youth and age.

Maximo Park’s Paul Smith’s songs provide a radio backdrop, easy listening like radio muzak that leaves us without a trace and other times stays as an irritating earworm buzzing around all day. Perhaps that’s their point – random fragmentary memory that for no apparent reason stays with us or leaves without a trace.

There are lovely sequences and interchanges and the starts of thoughts but ultimately they don’t form the necessary connections to make it more than the sum of its parts; it all feels a little light and even shallow. It’s a light fractured series of fragments, perhaps a little like memory itself – and while that might be the intention, somehow it doesn’t feel like enough.

At the end, the bread that has been cooked throughout the show is handed round. The next day I do remember the bread but other fragments of Hold On, Let Go swim round my head too, struggling to make sense of and integrate the fragments.