It was clear that from the onset, ’This Way Up’ aimed to boldly broadcast the daily struggles and toils a mental illness has on its victims. And this is really of no surprise considering that the TV mini series was created by comedian and actress, Aisling Bea and produced by Merman - the team behind 'Motherland', 'Catasphosphe' and 'There She Goes'. Like these powerful productions, 'TWU' speaks in a similar tone - its deals with chewy, controversial topics in a brutally honest way. We watch Aine - a twenty-something-wait-i'm-almost-thirty-year-old foreign language teacher wobble and endlessly battle against her throbbing anxiety and depression.
Much like its predecessors 'Fleabag', 'Catastophe' and 'Pure', Bea's 28 minute episodes enveloped that same frank yet delicate dance of comedy and tragedy alike. Scenes, lines and feelings are played out in their rawest light but then are hot on the heels of something of complete contrast.
If you have not seen the series you may now believe it to be confusing and overtly melodramatic - but it is far from it. As an audience we are drawn into and instantly empathise with Aine (lead, played by Aisling Bea) and her challenges. We see her countless, endless attempts to take reign of her life and keep her demons at bay. We identify the quick witted remarks she makes after her periods of panic as attempts of appearing in control, normal, fine and okay.
Aisling Beas' piece is written and played with such accuracy and tenderness, it seems hard to find someone who hasn’t yet fallen for it (if you didn't catch it live, you caught it here.) Though, despite the scripts wit, charm and honesty - and its wonderful cast (Sharon Horgan, Tobias Menzies and Bea herself are a few of the brilliant talents working on this), it is the subtle integration of sustainable living behaviours which extends the series’ real influence.
Did anyone else notice the eco themed messages the production effortlessly eased into the series?
As an environmental aficionado myself, 😉 I could see how the entire team had conciously integrated a sustainable feel to their work.
In the first episode, Aisling's script included a showing Aine intent on recycling her smoothie bottle correctly. Prop departments complimented this sustainable notion by accenting bathrooms with eco-freindly products, organic vitamins and bamboo toothbrushes (image below).
The second episode introduced Aine in several of scenes with a reusable coffee cup in hand - not a disposable one. It was also made clear to viewers, Aine was a clear second hand shop rail rumager from her choice of retro sweaters and jumpers.
Sustainable costume decisions were exemplified again in episode three, though this time with Shona's (played by Sharon Horgan) delightfully and ethically printed pyjamas, curtosy of Desmond and Dempsey. This episode also gave a commendable mention to the vegan documentary Cowspiracy (something well worth a Netflix of) which made many a millennial become plant based powered humans! Charity shops are championed again in episode five with Aine's gleeful smugness from her recent bargain, too - though this time with a perfectly fitting yet preowned, red frock.
There are many drops to eco friendly attitudes but none are ever confronted or robustly addressed - which is just how it should be. By just having the sustainability signposts dotted across the box set, makes this behaviour - the behaviour we should all be adopting more thoroughly - fairly ordinary.
The intentional decision to make such a wise green move is greatly supported by Aislings personal investment and advocation for sustainable living. Also - I happen to know Bea's sister is a Costumier (who, funnily enough worked on the show) with a similar enthusiasm for the planet. Sineád (Bea's sibling) was also part of the team who orchestrated the eco-costume pieces in 'Beauty in the Beast'.
I really applaud the work on 'This Way Up'. The female fuelled tv series does wonders in the case of mental health awareness and all the conversations around it. But it also highlights the importance of making 'ethical and mindful behaviours’ normal for all of us. If we start seeing sustainable choices and habits everywhere, achievable and visible within our lives, homes, routines and work, it becomes less of a choice and more of a given.
Which is what we need right now! We ARE in a climate emergency people!
By embedding the references it cleverly but subtly exercises the fact that living a life with a sustainable mindset, is accessible, achievable and usual - not a fad nor a trend. There is also worth mentioning that the series highlights the importance of environmentally friendly acts; even as Aine is tormented in her darkest moments she continues to follow non planetary offensive behaviour, stressing the importance of everyone to follow suit and take correct recycling, conscious consumption and as customary.