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These trees are made of blood - Southwark Playhouse

Published by: Dan Zbijowski on 21st Mar 2015 | View all blogs by Dan Zbijowski

At its best theatre has the potential to excite, shock, educate and provoke. "These trees are made of blood" does this in abundance.

 

Last year the Southwark Playhouse won the Fringe Theatre of the Year and on this form its difficult to see it going elsewhere this year.

 

‘These trees are made of blood’ tells the story behind the real events of a dark period in Argentina's history that became known as "La Guerra Sucia" - "The Dirty War”. Starting with a military coup in 1976, a dictatorship seized control of the South American country for 7 years, during which time an estimated 30,000 people were kidnapped and 'disappeared'.

 

The mothers of some of the missing started a protest in Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires in 1977, whilst their numbers have dwindled, 38 years on they still meet every Thursday to demand answers for their missing children.

 

These trees are made of blood "Never forget, never forgive" powerful words for a powerful production

The play is set in comically named “Coup, Coup” cabaret bar with the audience sat in and around the action. With a band playing in the corner and the air thick with smoke (or in this case dry ice) you could be in any bar in Buenos Aires. There is no divide between audience and cast, the spectator is very much a part of the production, sometimes actively involved. This heightens the drama and serves to make the events that unfold all the more powerful.

 

The show is compered by 'The General', the excellent Greg Barnett, who is at ease cracking jokes and interacting with the audience. He introduces 3 acts one by one, the first seemingly having little relevance other than being ‘burlesque’, but the 2nd and 3rd do segue into the themes of the show. In truth the first 15 minutes of sometimes humorous gags are a light hearted preamble and set-up the main thrust of the show, all delivered with some audience interaction by the 3rd cabaret artist. Whilst having limited relevance to the plot as a whole, it relaxed the crowd lulling them into a false sense of security that makes the impact of the show even greater.

 

Nb. don’t read your programme before the show to avoid a spoiler.

 

During the interval grab a stiff drink, because Act 2 becomes less forgiving and has some truly chilling moments. Val Jones is inspired as the increasingly desperate mother searching for her daughter. The dialogue at times is hard, but never overstated and when it becomes a little heavy handed the musical interludes bring it back brilliantly. The songs are emotive and powerful, lyrically poetic, and musically uplifting which provides great contrast to the action.

 

The score is every bit as catchy and profound as anything you’ll see in the West End and would draw worthy comparisons with ‘Les Miserables’. Darren Clark should be applauded for being able to pull together such dark themes in his music and lyrics in a way that doesn’t overwhelm.

  

One of the great songs from 'These trees are made of blood'

 

This is a highly charged, roller coaster ride of a production, the climactic reveal is one of the most powerful scenes I've witnessed. By the end there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Director Amy Draper deserves enormous credit for taking a vision of a very tricky subject and translating it so successfully to stage. Political productions can often feel forced and didactic in tone, forgetting the primary purpose of theatre... To entertain. This production achieves both thanks to great songs, fantastic direction and a superb cast.

 

If you see one production this year make it this. 

 

By Dan Zbijowski

 

Until 11th April

Southwark Playhouse, 77-85 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BD

Box office: 020 7407 0234 

More information: http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/the-little/these-trees-are-made-of-blood/

 

Comments

4 Comments

  • Joe Moss
    by Joe Moss 2 years ago
    A good review of what sounds an interesting production. An excellent Argentinian film "Garaje Olimpico" is also set in this period.
  • Carolin Kopplin
    by Carolin Kopplin 2 years ago
    Seems like a great production. Good review.
  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 2 years ago
    Thanks, Dan. Great review.
  • Joe Moss
    by Joe Moss 2 years ago
    Having now seen this I concur with the reviewer. This was superb theatre and very moving into the bargain.
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