Memories are such deeply personal things. All those good and bad and beautiful fragments we carry around make us who we are, and as they distort or fade or vanish over time, we’re necessarily changed along with them.
Gently probing our responses to the continual, unconscious acts of forgetting, remembering, and gradually dying, Hold On Let Go feels like an intimate and informal conversation, a chat with friends in a hot kitchen on a rainy evening.
There’s an elusive, self-effacing informality infusing the performance, which begins with writer and performer Luca Rutherford mingling with the audience before the show, copying our best dance moves and dispensing cups of home-made mint cordial. It’s deliciously syrupy and refreshing, the kind of drink your grandma might have made you on a summer afternoon with leaves picked from her garden.
Once the show gets going, we’re introduced to co-performer Alex Elliott, precisely twice Rutherford’s age and – in contrast to her fidgety low-key anxiety about the limits of memory – more accepting of the transience of things, more down to earth. While Rutherford spins out dreamy monologues about falling upwards into space, watching the canned contents of her brain vanishing into a black hole of forgetfulness, Elliott calmly goes about baking a batch of sourdough.
Their interactions are warm and casual, peppered with little ad-libs and good-natured teasing, and it’s easy to be drawn in by the slow-paced rhythm of their back-and-forth patter. Rutherford poses questions, Elliott answers with intimate, fragmentary anecdotes about his mother’ cooking or his grandmother’s experiences in Fascist Spain. There’s more than enough material here for a deep and gripping exploration of generational experience, but it’s handled so lightly, so tentatively, that it ends up feeling shallow.
Director Annie Rigby keeps the performers on their toes, perpetually dancing or moving freely about the space, balancing balletically on steeply-tilted tables or literally climbing the walls of Simon Henderson’s neat, cheerful set. A wall of laminated cupboards in bright greens and oranges unfolds to reveal silvery ranks of unlabelled tins and reams of fairy lights which twinkle like distant stars.
Meanwhile, Maxïmo Park frontman Paul Smith provides an original soundtrack of lilting indie tunes, all perfectly pleasant, all perfectly – perhaps intentionally – forgettable. Audio segments cast him as a DJ encouraging his listeners to send in stories of their own unreliable memories, breaking up the flow of Rutherford and Elliott’s chat.
Just as the performance gradually peters out, the bread emerges from the oven with a perfect, dusty dark crust, coils of steam unwinding upwards as it’s sliced apart. It’s dense, savoury, tart on the tongue, and easily the most satisfying and memorable element of the show. Maybe that’s the point. After all, as Rutherford tells us, it’s often not the big things but the tiny details we recall most vividly.
Hold On Let Go is on at Summerhall as part of the 2019 Edinburgh fringe, until 25th August. More info and tickets here.