Hold On Let Go sets out to address memory loss and forgetting on both a personal and political scale, asking the question: 'What if we forget something important?' Despite charming performances and quirky set design, it is difficult to shake the feeling that the production doesn't quite do justice to the depth and complexity of such a question.
An enjoyable production, offering a lively exploration of memory, loss and ageing
The show revolves around Alex (Alex Elliott) making sourdough bread for tomorrow’s show, while the product of yesterday’s performance bakes in an onstage oven. The narrative is interwoven with Alex’s personal memories of his mother, and the individual impact of landmark events such as the Spanish Civil War. Luca (Luca Rutherford), meanwhile, explains her contradictory feelings towards her own memories via the metaphor of innumerable tin cans floating in space. Although all of these separate strands contain within them a great deal of promise and interest, they do feel somewhat disconnected, and would be enhanced if fused together with a little more care and attention.
Elliott and Rutherford give energetic and engaging performances from the moment we arrive in the theatre, making us feel genuinely included in their conversation. It is a testament to their relaxed presence and easy rapport that the dialogue feels more like a spontaneous conversation than a scripted play. The set is beautifully designed as a kitchen for the baking, with big cupboards opening up to reveal hundreds of aforementioned intergalactic tins lit with fairy lights. Indeed, clever lighting design from Nick Rogerson is particularly effective in creating the sense of Luca floating in space with her unacknowledged memories.
These strengths, unfortunately, don’t quite compensate for the structural issues which leave the narrative feeling loose and disjointed. The central conflict and anxiety surrounding memory loss never escalates or fully develops beyond its initial manifestation; the absence of any turning point, crisis or climax means that the separate strands, however compelling, seem more like a collection of disparate ideas than a cohesive attempt to address the play's central question. This inhibits the levels of depth and complexity the production could achieve at its full potential, feeling frustratingly ‘2D’ in places where it has the opportunity to become more nuanced.
This is an enjoyable production, offering a lively exploration of memory, loss and ageing. It is a shame that the show never quite manages to address or develop its opening premise: 'What if we forget something important?' Hold On Let Go has warmth and huge heart, but would benefit from more development to find its voice in a complete and fully realised production.