Don’t Let Go is a perfect summation of what our mothers told us all along, that the prettiest faces could often mask the shallowest depths. Within its occasionally beautiful but ultimately hollow narrative, the play follows Leonard; a man whose doldrums factory life is catalysed by the sudden magical presence of an enigmatic red balloon.
Cast against a smoggy city backdrop, the piece’s interesting yet minimal set bodes well as a first impression. Lampposts hold their heads high, whilst boxes clutter darkened recesses along with a covered chair, which comes to life as the play begins, revealing a man beneath it all it along who dances and parades as a prelude.
It is in the trying for plot then that the play begins to have problems. When Leonard’s boss enters, a typical business money-over-man type, it’s hard to even hear what he’s saying, the actor delivering his words in a clipped tone that allows for no connection or depth between audience and character. His secretary Julia, who later becomes a love interest for Leonard, helps to resurrect some of the early charm through her elegant childlike presence, but the narrative remains impenetrable, regardless of her warmth.
There are some glints of greatness and movements however, and it is when the play disregards dialogue in favour of a kooky physical aesthetic that it works best. An elaborate puppetry scene, for example, in which the actors combine both tiny man and huge ladder is oddly moving through its slow measured climb. The red balloon however, which is so central to the plot, felt clumsy in comparison. Throughout the play it hangs off a hand and moves in jerky rather than florid movements, distracting from the transcendence it supposedly represents for life of Leonard.
Don’t Let Go then is a slightly bewildering piece that clearly has its heart in the right place, but can’t decide quite what it wants to say and quite how it wants to say it. The physical interludes hint towards higher meaning, but the stale narrative sadly bogs down its magical intent.
Don’t Let Go is at the Bedlam Theatre (Venue 49) until 24 August. For more information and tickets visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.