Forest Forge, UpBeat, Frome Merlin and touring

ff-upbeat-key-artDEBORAH Gearing’s new play UpBeat, on the road with Forest Forge until 9th April, should be compulsory viewing for anyone interested in climate change, and for how “alternative” lifestyles become the obvious option for those who care about their environment.

It that all sounds a bit heavy, it’s not meant to, although this musical three-hander doesn’t balk at punching home its message.

Alex and Becca are thrown together when their mother dies and their father retreats into torpor. She is 14 and all she can cook for her seven-year-old brother is toast.

The remainder of their childhood is spent on the riverbank, where they play, map the ponds and bridges and tributaries and learn the lives of the fishes.

But Becca wants more, and when a shoeless “crusty” comes into her shop and invites her to join The Tribe (as they became known) the seeds of protest and demonstrating were sown.

Alex, deserted, pals up with the river bailiff, Nelson. Years pass and the river changes, drought banishes eels, careless pollution kills fish, increasing bureaucracy and box ticking prevents effective action.

All this is played against a shimmering watery backdrop, with new and old songs underlining the old-new story.

The three actors, Abi McLoughlin and
Pete Ashmore as the siblings and William Wolfe Hogan as the almost mystical Nelson, are accomplished musicians and singers.

Their complex relationships with each other and with the water that flows essential as blood in their lives are gently unfurled in Kirsty Davis’s production.

The mesmeric effect is powerful and thought-provoking, even in the almost empty Merlin in Frome, where an audience of 12 appreciated the power of the show and the subtly evocative performances.

There are many other opportunities to see UpBeat (a title that does no justice to the subject) and I urge you to seek one out. A full list is in the FTR Preview section


Hopefully someone told the actors that the town was virtually a no-go area for cars, with road closures on both the ring roads and at central junctions.  Well, the money has to be spent before the end of the finacial year, doesn’t it, regardless of the effect on communities and businesses!

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