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How to Keep Time: A Drum Solo for Dementia review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘poignant and lyrical’

How To Keep Time: A Drum Solo for Dementia at Summerhall, Edinburgh. Photo: Stefan Wojcik
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Drumming requires discipline – years of precision drilling, until playing becomes second nature, muscle memory. It’s oddly fitting, then, that for a show about his Polish grandfather’s struggle with dementia, poet and drummer Antosh Wojcik should choose a medium so rooted in repetition and memory.

In this storytelling piece-cum-drum solo, Wojcik plays along to his grandfather’s incoherent babble – involuntary noises that do not form sentences are given regimented shape and notation. Elsewhere, a regular groove is glitched, its time signature jolting about – but all done with the honed precision of a young musician at the peak of his technical skill.

Music holds deep-seated emotional resonance, and it’s Wojcik’s hope that his drumming will unlock memories for his grandfather. We never find out if it does, though: the audience is only ever privy to Wojcik’s inner life.

Over the course of an hour, this one-sided conversation becomes dangerously repetitive – healthy for drummers, as Wojcik points out, but not so much for storytelling. The pitch of the performance is of sustained desperation, making for an overly effortful watch. The writing is often beautifully lyrical, and with some tightened-up dramaturgy, Wojcik could have an incredibly affecting show on his hands.

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Poignant autobiographical drumming show exploring dementia and language