Before logging on to watch Boiling Frog, part of Camden Fringe 2022, I did some research and unearthed the following: “Urban myth has it that if you put a frog in a pot of boiling water it will instantly leap out. But if you put it in a pot filled with pleasantly tepid water and gradually heat it, the frog will remain in the water until it boils to death.”
The production opens with scenes of burning forest fires, then four actors each share their experiences of how the Australian bush fires of 2019/2020 affected their lives. There is a fifth actor, Jordan (Tom Stevenson), but more of him later.
Only one of the four, teenager Bella (Olivia Maiden), actually witnessed the fires first-hand, but it’s the impact the disaster had on her that affects the rest of her family – her gran Susan (Judith Eveson), her mum Jenny (Diane Lukins) and her dad Peter (Andrew Macdonald).
Gran (grey-haired, outgoing, full of common sense – my favourite character of them all), kicks off proceedings by describing her granddaughter Bella as a difficult child, intelligent, wilful, defiant and carefree.
But after being caught up in the Australian bush fires while on a gap year, Gran reveals her granddaughter is suffering from depression.
Gran doesn’t mince her words when talking about her artist daughter Jenny, Bella’s mum, who she says “could fret for England” after going through a divorce.
Jenny, meanwhile, cannot understand why Bella can’t just go to uni, get a good job and live a lovely life, instead of wanting to protest about climate change and risk being arrested.
You see, after arriving home from Oz, Bella has joined XR (Extinction Rebellion) and believes wholeheartedly that mankind is killing the planet.
She describes in detail the horror of living through the bush fires; an experience that has left her having panic attacks and disagreements with her parents.
Her dad, Peter, a high flyer, feels he has worked his socks off to give Bella a good life, but he’s in a line of work that invests in fossil fuels – much to Bella’s disgust.
Enter XR protester Jordan. Brought up on a cattle farm in Lincolnshire, witnessing his dad injecting cows with antibiotics to fatten them up, Jordan is on an eco-mission to save the planet. And Bella hangs on to his every word – many beginning with an F.
All the above characters give their side of the story with clarity. Humour (Gran), puzzlement (Jenny and Peter), fear (Bella) and determination (Jordan) all shine through during the 90-minute production.
Boiling Frog doesn’t skirt around serious issues such as mental health, politics, eco anxiety etc and I could see everyone’s point of view. The Boiling Frog analogy I unearthed became clear – humans are sitting on a planet that is gradually warming up. Will we boil to death before becoming aware that the planet is too hot?
Incidentally, I have been trapped in a bush fire in Sydney, Australia, while visiting my sister there. Luckily, we were guided out by firefighters, an experience I will never forget.
Boiling Frog ended on a happy note for four of the characters. Stream it for yourself to discover which glum face was left on my computer screen at the end. Thought-provoking stuff.
Written and directed by Jo Emery with music by Fjodor Music, Ballian De Moulle, John Lowell Anderson, Jam Studio. All footage shot by the cast using iPhones.
Part of Camden Fringe 2022. Streaming until Sunday, August 28th, 2022. Tickets £5. Visit www.camden.ssboxoffice.com
Reviewer: Jackie Foottit
Reviewed: 1st August 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★