There’s a line in How to Keep Time that sat very deeply in my heart: “All my memories have been rewritten for who you are now.” That a person who handed a child a gooseberry and told him stories of the war in Poland and made him smile so much would be remembered not as the good man he was, but the stuttering mess he is. In that moment, I saw the pain writ on Antosh Wojcik’s face, and I cried because I knew his pain was real as I, years earlier, had sat where he was sitting.
Does an incredible job of showing what it feels like to have someone you love sat before you, and yet still be lost to themselves
How to Keep Time: A Drum Solo For Dementia manages to nail an incredibly specific feeling for me – a relentless desire to hold on to a person who’s slowly losing themselves. For Antosh, this involves bringing in a drumkit so he can try and make a language that his Diazdek (grandpa), who can only speak in stutters, can understand. But those drums serve as knocks, as heartbeats, and as emotional pleas; to get out of a car going 90 miles down the road, to have a gooseberry from the bush one last time, and to have one more last good day. Unsurprisingly, there’s a timing to it all, which really brings it all together, and while certain moments outstay their welcome and Antosh, the character, can be irritating at times, the show has a clear emotional flow. Perfectly placed lulls give you a chance to laugh after a gut punch moment and make sure that you don’t linger in despair.
At the heart of it all is Antosh himself, painstakingly written to be relatable and loveable. Without lingering on his stellar drumming, he shows so much care and love for his Grandfather and really sells the development of heartbreak as he learns – but refuses to admit – that Diazdek is gone. He does an exceptional job of playing multiple characters, his stuttering Diazdek, his Stoic Dad, and finally himself. It was in his own character I saw a reflection of myself, and how I acted when my Nana was in that world. I say that it nails a specific feeling perfectly because it nails a feeling I have personally had, and remember deeply. And it broke me in half. While the show is imperfect – its moments can drag, and Antosh’s character can irritate, it brought me to tears so many times, and it does an incredible job of showing what it feels like to have someone you love sat before you, and yet still be lost to themselves. Wanting nothing more than a gooseberry from your grandpa.