INVISIBLE MENDING at Edinburgh Festival Fringe
“a fascinating piece, even if it requires patience at times”
Yoshika Colwell’s haunting reminiscences of her grandmother’s knitting — together with the sounds of knitting needles gently brushing together — will linger with audiences long after they leave the Demonstration Room at Summerhall. Invisible Mending is a multimedia piece composed of the spoken word, singing, written words from diaries, and carefully curated sounds composed and produced by Max Barton of Second Body. Barton is also on stage, accompanying Colwell on the guitar. Both artists work seamlessly together during this seventy minute exploration of creativity inspired by grief. In Colwell’s case, the grief is especially poignant, because it is all tied up with being far away from home, in the middle of the 2020 pandemic. Invisible Mending is a show about many things, but it’s primarily about losing the two things that hold Colwell’s world together—her grandmother, and her music.
What holds everything together in Invisible Mending are the sweaters that Colwell’s grandmother has spent her life knitting. Even the most reluctant recipient of a hand knit sweater is very conscious that these sweaters—often ill-fitting—are important for Granny’s legacy. Colwell brings one on stage to show us. It’s full of holes, but Colwell, aka Yoshi, does not know how to repair it. As part of her tribute to her grandmother, Yoshi makes a commitment to learn how to knit—and to repair the holes in the piece that her grandmother has left her. As she learns these new skills, she finds that they are inextricably bound up with rediscovering her music. She interviews family members about Granny’s knitting, and the recordings of these interviews are also added to this multi-layered piece. She discovers that the sweaters are an important part of her family history.
There are also other, more ambiguous memories at work in Invisible Mending. As Yoshi acquires her new skills, Invisible Mending becomes about much more than honouring a beloved ancestor. As Yoshi slowly learns to knit, and to recover her voice, which she lost while on tour in Australia, her inspiration leads her to much older, mythical places. She sees how the humble skills of knitting and mending connect her and her grandmother with figures who could be identified as the three fates of Greek mythology. Always imagined on a distant shore, Yoshi speaks with their voices; acts out the spinning, measuring, and cutting of the life of a human being. But instead of seeing a cut thread as just an ending, Yoshi sees it as a hopeful connection to an as yet unrealized future. We watch her hold up two pieces of severed thread, and twist them together. The two pieces of thread once again become one.
Invisible Mending is a fascinating piece, even if it requires patience at times. It does not reveal its story in linear ways, and some of the connections may seem as tenuous as the fraying sweater we see on stage. But Colwell and Barton are an intriguing partnership who play to each other’s strengths. They build something entirely unexpected out of personal memories, and the mundane things of everyday life. Invisible Mending is, among other things, a lesson in learning how to create, but also how to mend, as things fall apart. Colwell takes all these things —her music; her knitting; family memories—and weaves them together in a complex experience that presents hope in loss, and utility in grief.
Reviewed 5th August 2022
by Dominica Plummer
Photography by Max Barton
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