Climb

A guitar, microphone and stool wait expectantly on an empty stage. Forrest enters the spotlight and plunges into an introductory song. I’m drawn in by a voice that retains an enchanting warmth and softness, and the percussive, lilting reggae guitar underscoring much of the storytelling.

Spun with the charm, warmth and wit of a storyteller effortlessly in control of his craft

Weaving effortlessly between speaking and singing, the show follows Forrest’s experiences travelling through South America while working with NGOs. It’s spun with the charm, warmth and wit of a storyteller effortlessly in control of his craft. What could easily have been a litany of Impressive Places I’ve Never Been To becomes a hint of Italian spoken by men at a roadside in Arezzo, or coloured light sliding across the floor of the Sagrada Família. His songs are like postcards from a wildly adventurous friend, detailing various romantic exploits as well as hope, self-sufficiency, and a longing for paths not taken. Within this, we get a sense of their place in the context of Forrest’s own journey navigating cultural expectations of relationships and self-expression.

Forrest’s natural musicality transcends traditional boundaries of form or genre: his guitar is a natural extension of his storytelling, or perhaps the other way around. Transitions from story to song only add to the hypnotic atmosphere he creates. Riffs and rhythms incorporated into the guitar playing underscore spoken storytelling. He allows for moments of stillness, while creating enough momentum that the show never drags. This extends a visceral, almost filmic quality to this storytelling: it’s a pleasure to listen to him.

Forrest is able to inhabit completely the moments and emotions his songs evoke, creating a strong connection with his audience. The process of being curious and slightly lost is effectively echoed in invited audience participation: we, too, can sound ( or, in my case, stumble) through unfamiliar names for the first time, or shout joyful refrains – and feel unsure, joyful, curious, awkward. This sensuous immediacy is paired with a burgeoning narrative voice that is charming and warm, critical but never judgmental. It’s a testament to Forrest’s presence, vulnerability, and talents as a storyteller that the two complement, rather than eclipse, one another, as he begins to consider whether the narratives he continues to live out are actually working for him.

There are, of course, limits to what can be accomplished in 45 minutes. I would have welcomed a deeper exploration of mental health themes not quite woven cohesively into the larger narrative. As it is, I’m content to experience this as subversive underscoring to his sparkling love ballads and lilting bossa nova riffs.

Above all, it is Forrest’s powerful, transportive storytelling that stays with me. This is more than a trip down memory lane; it’s a subtle commentary on being shaped by places and people as we shape them, exploring both the value of our roots and how our cultures and existing narratives can limit us. It is told by a man who looking back with warmth and wit at the journey it took to get him here.

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Reviews by Hazel Burt

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Since you’re here…

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You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
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Performances

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The Blurb

Jamaican-Canadian singer/songwriter Duane Forrest shares his stories and songs, gleaned from his travels around the world. Whether he's singing about love found and lost in Latin America, or telling stories about seeking clarity gigging throughout Asia and Europe, his soulful voice and samba/reggae vibes seek joy and hope in this broken world. Proceeds support Duane's charity Genesis Community of the Arts. Creator: Duane Forrest. Dramaturg: Ins Choi. Producer: John McGowan. Starring: Duane Forrest.

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