Saturday, 11 October 2008

an oak tree, Oct 10, 2008 ****

an oak tree 
by Tim Crouch, Melbourne International Arts Festival
When & Where: Oct 10 to 13, 2008
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Tim Crouch’s play, an oak tree, allows the audience to experience the evolution of a theatrical performance. Although we do not participate directly, we are complicit in the piece as it unfolds before us. 

The narrative being enacted is only one component of the whole performance.

It is about a hypnotist (Crouch) presenting his live show to a pub audience. On this particular night, one of his on-stage guinea pigs is the devastated father (Jane Turner) of a child that the hypnotist killed in a car accident three months earlier.

What makes this performance so compelling is the fact that the second actor (turner) in the show arrives on stage without having ever seen a script, hard the story, been apprised of the character he or she is to play and without any rehearsal.

There is perhaps nothing more fascinating to watch than the mind of an actor in a whirl as she listens, thinks, imagines and then acts. We are witnessing the moment of creativity without any mediating action or preparation, as we do when watching truly improvised performance. It is magical and we are not only present but complicit in the moment of creation.

Crouch chats directly to us before the narrative itself begins. During the performance he guides his guest, Turner, by direct instructions, over an earpiece or through reading from a script. What we see is both the narrative of he two actors interacting as if in rehearsal and the story of the emotionally crippled father confronting his grief and the man who caused it.

an oak tree has a piercing and poignant quality. Both characters are damaged by their experience of the car accident. The hypnotist is no longer in control of his performance and the father is removed from his wife and younger child because he imagines his dead daughter alive in shape of the oak tree at the site of her death.

Each performance of an oak tree will be a new experience for all because every actor will embody the character differently and engage with Crouch and the audience in his or her own way.

This is my treat for this year’s Melbourne Festival. Nothing else will come near it for sheer emotional truth and immediacy.

Kate Herbert

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