Tree Confessions/We’ll Dance On The Ash Of The Apocalypse (Online review)

Tree Confessions/We’ll Dance On The Ash Of The Apocalypse (Online review)

Though the big guns which are at the Edinburgh Fringe have now been rolled out, it’s taking some time to pin down what to aim for there.  Meanwhile its somewhat smaller sibling is continuing in Camden and so I thought I would take a break from Edinburgh brochure browsing and pick up on a couple of shows from a Festival which is much nearer geographically and boasts some interesting online content. My choices narrowed down to a pair of performances which took ecology as one of their central themes.

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Tree Confessions comes from New York theatre company This Is Not A Theatre Company (their logo is an homage to the Magritte painting The Treachery Of Images; a painting of a tobacco pipe provocatively labelled “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”) who specialise in site specific theatre. A look at their website reveals that some of these locations would be easy to engage with; all you have to do is sit in a bath or even just shut your eyes. However, some are absolutely impossible currently – e.g., one involves being on the Staten Island Ferry. Anyway, the instructions for this one seemed easy enough; I just had to locate a tree and sit under it so needed to go no further than my back garden. However, I had reckoned without the watery deluge dropping from the sky at the time, so decided to put things on hold while I turned to my second choice (so, watch this space, for now)

vZkwzK7H_400x400This second (or, as it turned out, first) piece is called We’ll Dance On The Ash Of The Apocalypse. A few weeks ago it had played as part of the Brighton Fringe and had just missed being on my shortlist then, so I was glad to find it being repeated. It is set at the end of days as climate change wreaks havoc (just as it had with my plans that afternoon), there are food shortages, draconian legal restrictions, massive unemployment – you get the picture. A young man and woman are surviving – just – but when she announces she is pregnant they face a moral dilemma; is this any sort of world into which to bring a new life? Playwright Melissa-Kelly Franklin has spun an interesting tale which bears similarities to Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs except here the disaster has already arrived. It’s a nonlinear account with repeated flashbacks to how the pair first met and became a couple.

Clearly it is Maite Jauregui’s character who is the driving force in the relationship. It is she who is the committed activist when they first meet at a climate change protest and she that suggests supergluing themselves to a bridge which more or less also serves as the moment that cements their relationship. She also asserts her right to decide whether the pregnancy will go ahead which raises the ethical dilemma of choice. Danny Horn’s character meanwhile is largely content to be led though he stages his own minor rebellion over the question of termination. The actors form a natural rapport and convince as a pairing, sharing moments of tenderness and empathy as well as taking opposing positions on the question of the pregnancy. There are moments of bleak humour too such as when they share a tin of pineapple rings to celebrate a birthday – finding such an item is a major coup in this brave new world. They even have a child substitute of sorts in the form of (gender neutral) Bill, a lone tomato plant growing in a tin can.

Vegetation is, of course, the central trope of Tree Confessions to which I was able to return as the rain had by now temporarily given up. Positioning myself under my variegated maple I pressed play on this immersive audio experience structured as a monologue by a tree – surely a first in theatre going. It’s an intriguing half hour as we mere humans are Tree Confessions Publicity Image 1inducted into the ways of the arboreal world where communication is every bit as important as it is for us albeit structured in a rather different mode reliant on co-operation and interaction rather than conflict and dissension. This follows the discoveries of human scientist Cindy (though that may not be her name as all humans seem alike) that plant life has a communication system. The mellow tones of Kathleen Chalfant as the 140 year old tree regales us with anecdotes of itself and its compatriots. Written by Jenny Lyn Bader it’s a thought provoking half hour some of which demonstrates that, in the end,  flora and fauna are perhaps not so very different. And who knew that the tree at the back of my English garden would have an American accent?

Tree Confessions and We’ll Dance On The Ash Of The Apocalypse  are available as part of the online content at the Camden Fringe – click here

The second play is also available via the Edinburgh Fringe – click here

Other Camden Fringe content is listed in their brochure -click here

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