THESE TREES ARE MADE OF BLOOD
by Paul Jenkins lyrics and music by Darren Clark.
Southwark Playhouse (The Little) 77-85 Newington Causeway SE1 6BD To 11 April 2015.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 March.
Human rights drama with a human heart.
Dictators habitually lie. So do playwrights. The difference between these two forms of autocracy is the purpose: to deceive or to reveal. Anyway, there’s little likelihood anyone will believe in the ‘Coup Coup Club’ which greets audience-members at Southwark Playhouse’s Little space for this new show.
Its happy South American songs, made to suggest a paradise on earth and performed from a tiny stage to people sat at café-style tables, is a set-up so obvious it’s no surprise when the build-up to the authoritarian MC reveals him as a military General.
Greg Barnett’s character moves from sinister joker – a clown given fearful power, exercised through mirthless jokes told through glistening teeth and made-for-tourists smile – to serious old man, defending himself in a new democracy with all the vehemence of conviction.
Long before then, the piece has played its major trick, through an audience-participation sleight-of-hand, shifting to a realistic, at times documentary, style which more directly reveals the oppression and suffering of life in an authoritarian regime that’s supported by a superpower.
Yet as matters darken, the visible signs of a happy cabaret remain Only after a last development in the story, one that’s emotionally forceful if rationally stretching coincidence, are the curtains drawn aside to show documentary evidence of the widespread human cost.
Till then, the contrast has been played-out spatially, the General’s showily fanciful cabaret apparatchiks parading round the room and the ordinary people, busy in what has become their cramped domestic space.
This is a society where supporting a good cause can make someone a rebel unawares. It’s not just the fact of opposing the government. It’s the implications of actions; demonstrating for buses to take children to school becomes a sign of wanting the favelas educated.
And that means ‘being disappeared’. In Generalised Argentina this led to protests by mothers, parading with photos of vanished sons and daughters. This gripping piece, which tickles then throttles the mind, brings home the agony of one, among many, mothers amid the casualness of authority and dehumanisation in a system where remains of the dead are shelved in cardboard boxes.
General: Greg Barnett.
Gloria: Val Jones.
Ana: Charlotte Worthing.
Cabaret Artists: Neil Kelso, Alexander Luttley.
Ensemble/Band: Rachel Dawson, Eilon Morris, Anne-Marie Piazza, Josh Sneesby.
Director: Amy Draper.
Designer: Georgia Lowe.
Lighting: Sherry Coenen.
Sound: David Gregory.
Musical arrangers: Darren Clark, Rachel Dawson, Neil Kelso, Eilon Morris, Anne-Marie Piazza, Josh Sneesby.
Musical Director: Darren Clark.
Videographer: Wayne Eagles.
Assistant director: George Bancroft-Livingston.