Climb at Underbelly (Cowbarn), Bristo Square is at its heart a story of doomed young love written and performed by Duane Forrest, told in songs as the drama unfolds on stage. Already wounded from a previous relationship, Diego (Duane Forrest) meets by chance a woman, Mariela (Sandra Aguilar), who is in a very fragile emotional state from a previous bad experience in her life. This is the story of their relationship with original music and story from Duane told in the different emotions of bossa nova, jazz, reggae, and soul music.
There are 18 songs in this song cycle and although these highlight Duane’s abilities as a songwriter and guitarist it does leave very little room for anything other than a superficial skimming across the dramatic content of this work. Even as a straight work of drama, the one hour format would probably not have been enough to open up and explore in any depth the complex relationship dynamics of Diego and Mariela, and a key moment in Mariela’s life that defines the whole emotional state of her complex character is simply moved on from far too quickly. There is a potential for real depth of emotions to be explored here and the music moves us away from this opportunity far too quickly. Here, Mariela does tell the audience about a very unpleasant moment in her life, but we are never told if she confides this secret to Diego but, if she has, then he certainly has no excuse for his insensitive behaviour in their relationship. It is the dramatic skills of Sandra Aguilar as Mariela that bring life to her character and save this story on a dramatic level.
On a musical level though, Duane Forrest is an engaging performer with a very easy delivery of his music that immediately set his audience at ease and, as a lyricist, there are more than a few interesting lines beneath the different and competently played musical styles on guitar to make me want to hear more of his music.
Taking a small, but important, role in this relationship story as a singer in a club (Zoriamil) is Argentinian singer Mariela Josid.
Climb is an interesting project, but it really does need more time for Sandra Aguilar to open up her role as Mariela, and time is a luxury that few Fringe performances have.
There is a live album of this show, “Climb The Live Album” and proceeds from this project support Forrest's charity Genesis Community of the Arts which establishes sustainable arts projects in marginalised communities in Central America.
Underbelly, Bristo Square
Aug 11-12, 14-26
Review by Tom King