Thursday, 16 February 2012

A Fallen Tree By Christine Croyden, Feb 15, 2012 **1/2

La Mama, Feb 15 to March 4, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Feb 15
Stars: **1\2

We all recognise the devastation wrought by Black Saturday but in Christine Croyden’s play, A Fallen Tree, that cruel blaze could not burn away the secret horror hidden by young Hannah’s (Libby Gott) family.

Croyden approaches the aftermath of the fires from an acute angle by not exploring the actual bushfire, but revealing the emotional fragility of Hannah and her younger sister, Lily, who is a constant presence despite  never being seen on stage.

The revelation of the shocking truth of family abuse provides dramatic tension in the latter half but Croyden’s dialogue in the first half is sometimes rambling or banal.

Director, Wayne Pearn, effectively concentrates on the fraught relationships of the characters of Hannah, her sleazy stepfather John (Jonathon Dyer) and her concerned neighbour Claire (Bridgette Burton).

The acting, however, is uneven. Dyer looks uncomfortable as John, Gott plays on one emotional note throughout but Burton gives a more nuanced performance.

Hannah returns from the city where she cares for her psychologically damaged sister, to her family’s country home where she builds a bonfire from branches of a fallen tree.

She hopes this fire will hide her secret and purge the horrors of her past.

Woven amongst this muted present are echoes of her happier childhood, singing and playing in the outdoors with her little sister.

However, these brighter memories are disturbed by darker experiences from their family’s past and Hannah’s control slips when her stepfather arrives at the farm.

By Kate Herbert

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