Review: To Have and To Hold, Brighton Fringe
4.0Overall Score

In some ways, responding to the laconic To Have and To Hold with words feels counter intuitive.

This piece from Sketch Dance Company is a mix of physical theatre and voice — inspired by Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. If you’re not familiar with that model (I wasn’t either), it’s a theory that states an individual passes through eight developmental stages between infancy and late adulthood. Each stage consists of psychosocial conflicts between two opposing forces within the individual (eg. Trust vs Mistrust as an infant, Identity vs Role Confusion as a teen). Individuals either resolve these crises healthily and gain virtues (eg. leaving infancy with more trust than mistrust instils hope in the individual), or they fail to resolve the crises, which may cause problems in later life. 

Ok – psychology lesson over. 

Eriksen’s model informs the structure of To Have and To Hold, as it unfolds in eight segments, bookended by short sections featuring voice. It’s hugely ambitious from Artistic Director and choreographer Jasmine Andrews to try and tackle a complex theory like this through physicality. She eschews more direct forms of communication to ask existential questions concerning identity and autonomy; to what extent are these self-determined or dictated by our relationships?

Despite this challenge, the show does seem to work. There are three performers featured (Claire Hackston, Francesca Lista, and Ema Thomas) and they are all masterful in their movement. Andrews’ choreography allows them to explore intimacy, isolation, growth, and more. Sometimes they move together, other times each performer is in their own space; and the filming by Adam Biko means that each segment is engrossing, filled with motion and emotion. We see repeated motifs and movements unravel throughout the film which shine a light on some of the questions being asked here.

It’s also worth noting that this is a site-specific piece. The segments occur in a suburban London house (in the kitchen, living room, bedroom and garden), a park, and a bus-stop. These spaces cleverly reflect the colour palette — often clean and saturated with whites and browns that mingle with the costumes of each of the performers. Though they are useful as areas to inform the work (the bedroom, for instance, is a focus in a segment that reflects Young Adulthood, which hosts the conflict between Intimacy and Isolation), they are more pertinent as bare canvases for the performers to fill with meaning and physicality.

This is definitely a complex watch. It is so, so densely packed — barely a second passes without some form of movement. The inspiration of Eriksen’s model also feels incredibly far removed from physical theatre and requires a lot of work for both the creatives and the audience to establish the link. It definitely warrants, and perhaps needs, repeated viewings to untangle all of the enigmas within.  However, these disparate elements undoubtedly fuse together to create a work that is meaningful and engaging. Some parts of this are spellbinding — the fact we have to dig a little deeper to get there only enriches To Have and To Hold further.

To Have and To Hold is streaming on the Brighton Fringe website until 31 October. For tickets and more information, see Brighton Fringe Online.