Hold Tight

Direction and design Charlotte Vincent, music Jules Maxwell
Vincent Dance Theatre
The Place

Hold Tight by Charlotte Vincent Credit: Bosie Vincent

I go to see this simulation whilst in the real world more missiles rain down on Kyiv and casualties mount up… Nothing can match the surreal, demented logic of the parallel universe in which Putin awards ‘City of Military Glory’ to Melitopol and Mariupol—similar to ‘Hero City’ awarded to cities that held off the Nazis—retaliation for Kherson no doubt.

Artistic director of Vincent Dance, Charlotte Vincent’s piece Hold Tight is well-intentioned, a “response” to “the past three years of isolation and dislocation” with “global events… heavy on [her] mind”.

There is a warning leaflet: “Hold Tight is suitable for audiences 14+ and contains images, sounds and scenes that some people may find upsetting. There are references to war, violence, suffering and death and there is some shouting in the work. If you are affected by the themes, need support or know someone who may need support, please speak to the Front of House team who can give you a list of helplines / useful organisations to speak to.”

Contact details for Samaritans, NSPCC, Childline, Refuge, Barnardos, and COVID aid charities are listed. No wonder the thuggish Russian Morlocks think the West full of weak Eloi. Hold Tight is nowhere near as dramatic as the above leads us to believe: a slap given to a young girl is heard off stage, a girl’s hair gets pulled, the three giggling girls (Tia, Charlotte, Hannah) get pushed around by four adults (Robert Clark, Antonia Grove, Aurora Lubos, Janusz Orlik).

They play musical chairs. Enact tales, relive traumas, make a shelter den, scatter the stage with bin bags of clothes, a man turns in to a stag, another a large cat (man as beast?), a woman screams, a man falls to the ground repeatedly. The same woman writes a list of names on the blackboard backcloth—I think, but I’m sitting too far back to see.

She is the most highly-strung, she speaks Polish; a man translates badly. Children’s voices are heard singing—Ukrainian children refugee voices we are told—I wish I could make them out (I speak Ukrainian and Russian). There are machine-gun rounds and exploding bomb sounds (45 minutes in). This we can witness daily on our screens.

More from the director: “The work is broken, unfinished and fragmented, attempting to piece together something in a hostile environment, conjuring images from rubbish, with our imagination and the children the only pathways out of the darkness and into the light.”

It’s a collaborative process, and the actor dancers are all fine, but Hold Tight is too long, a slo-mo indulgence in the style of an art house film or animation. Half the length might have made for a tauter, more impactful dance theatre piece. The woman screams “go away, go away”. Finally, it is screamed at us. I am glad and relieved to go away. Jules Maxwell’s soundscore is Hold Tight’s saving grace.

Vincent Dance Theatre has been touring the UK since 2 November. It continues to Leeds and Norwich 19 and 24 November.

Reviewer: Vera Liber

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