THESE TREES ARE MADE OF BLOOD
Book by Paul Jenkins
Music and Lyrice by Darren Clark
Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London E8 3DL to 15 July 2017.
Mon-Sat 7.30 pm.Mat Wed & Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 30 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7503 1646.
Review: William Russell 16 June.
In the end worth coming to this cabaret
The person who pays to see a play has the option of leaving at the interval, the reviewer does not. You never know what will happen. Someone may deliver a terrific performance in Act Two and Act Two may be startlingly better than what has gone before. This musical about the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, the women who, since 1977, have been protesting about their children murdered during the right wing dictatorship from 1976 to 1983, is such a piece of theatre.
The gimmick is we are in a Buenos Aires cabaret, the Coup Coup, where the entertainers perform the mothers’ tale, but the first half presenting the players consists of familiar magic routines, ancient music hall jokes, a lot of quasi Argentinian type songs sung in the accents of the nicer parts of the home counties – the authentic voice of Argentina is simply not there – plus a gentleman in drag wearing nipple tassels who runs around waving two large blue feather fans to indicate decadence. It is tedious, pointless, and so badly structured that it is not until the closing seconds that we get to the story of the mothers, the reason for the show.
In the second half, however, we concentrate on one mother – Gloria. Her teenage daughter Ana went on a demo with her boyfriend to protest about bus prices for students and never came back. Gloria, a powerful performance from Ellen O’Grady, will not be stopped from demanding answers and justice for Ana, a nicely rebellious turn from Charlotte Worthing. What happened to her is shown and it is not pleasant to watch.
As the agents of the regime Rob Castell and Neil Kelso, who spend act one camping it up as third rate low life cabaret performers, turn impressively horrible, the rest of the good multi talented cast up their game and the evening springs to belated life with real power.
The piece, work shopped for several years, had an outing some time back at Southwark Playhouse but as sometimes happens lessons have not been learned. Using a satirical cabaret as a framing device is a perfectly good idea, one used by Kander and Ebb in Cabaret actually who did create the right sort of club. But the creators of this piece, Darren Clark, Amy Draper and Paul Jenkins, have come up with a dud end of the pier show. This Coup Coup club is anything but home to satire.
Had I left at the interval there would have been two stars up there. But there is a story to be told and eventually it gets told. The mothers today are by and large a tourist attraction and I don’t quite accept director Draper’s claim that they are not widely known about here. Their story has been told many times. But that is possibly also a matter of age. I do remember the dirty war and the revelations about the disappeared, but it was some 40 years ago and the Arcola audience is young. To many it will come as a revelation. Perhaps the best advice is to go at the interval rather than leave.
General: Rob Castell.
CIA Agent/Proescutor/Mother/Ensemble: Rosalind Ford.
Sub Lieutenant Suarez: Neil Kelso.
Wing Commander Campos: Alexander Luttley.
Judge/Ensemble: Ellon Morris.
Gloria: Ellen O’Grady.
Alegra/Ensemble: Anne-Marie Piazza.
Matias/Enselble: Josh Sneersby.
Ana: Charlotte Worthing.
Director: Amy Draper.
Design: Georgia Lowe & Alex Berry.
Lighting Design: Sherryy Coenen.
Movement Direction: Chi-San Howard.
Sound Design: David Gregory.
Illusion Design: Neil Kelso.
Costume Supervisor: Hannaah Wolfe.
Musical Arrangement: Darren Cklark;RosalindFord; Neil Kelso; Ellon Morris; Anne-Marie Piazza & Josh Sneesby.