THE Essex coast was serenaded by the delicate tones of Somerset folk music as Frinton Summer Theatre presented Nell Leyshon’s insightful play, Folk, at The McGrigor Hall.

As the rise of the machines starts to dawn and the threat looms large over the fields and meadows of rural England of a revolution in agriculture and manufacturing that will change lives and livelihoods forever, Folk tells this story of transformation through the folk songs that have been ingrained in this earth for generations.

Following the sudden death of their mother, two sisters, Louie Hooper (Hannah Traylen) and Lucy White (Gemma Sutton), are left to support themselves in this tumultuous time. Louie heads to the vicarage to find extra work while a special visitor is in attendance.

The visitor is Cecil Sharp (William Oxborrow), who has come to Somerset to find inspiration for his ambitions to compose great English music. In this chance encounter with Louie, Cecil finds inspiration far beyond his expectations as well as an untapped musical talent incomparable to the students at his own London music school.

During a week that changes both of their lives, Cecil and Louie share songs and musical experiences from very different spectrums, all under the promise that these songs from Somerset will form the foundations of a dazzling new collection of music celebrating the heritage of rural England.

When Cecil returns, his collection of Somerset songs have been recorded for history in a gilt-edged book of score music, but the book makes no mention of Louie and the arrangements of the songs have lost the identity she associates with them. A crushed Louie is left broken and the audience is left to ponder the true reflections of this play.

Retained for all time and taught in schools for future generations to enjoy, Cecil has rescued these folk songs from possible obscurity. But at what cost and with what motivation? Can these songs of the land, and the people of the land, be uprooted from the soil without withering in the process.

As you delight in the wonderful music and Hannah Traylen’s stunning performance as Louie, you can make up your own mind.

Folk continues until July 29 at The McGrigor Hall. Visit for tickets.

Reviewer: Julian Read