Thursday, May 10, 2018

THE BLEEDING TREE


Written by Angus Cerini
Directed by Lee Lewis
A Griffin Theatre Production
The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre to 12 May

Reviewed by Len Power 9 May 2018

‘The Bleeding Tree’ may be a new Australian play but it has a timeless, almost legendary feel about it.  That’s as it should be as the issue at the heart of the play – violence towards women – has always been there and, unforgivably, still is.  Its description as a murder ballad is spot on.

The play premiered at Griffin Theatre Company in 2015 and went on to win three Helpmann Awards including Best Play, Best Direction and Best Female Actor as well as the 2016 NSW Premier’s Literary Award.

In an act of revenge, three women in a town in rural Australia, victims of domestic violence, kill the man responsible for their misery and dispose of the body.  It’s clear that they feel no remorse or fear for their actions.  As onlookers we are chilled and disturbed as we imagine the depth of abuse they must have experienced to make them capable of such an action.  Issues of right and wrong become conflicted in our minds.

Writer, Angus Cerini, provides these women with a dialogue that is gritty and real.  Weaving their words together in a rich, almost poetic way, he creates a world that is unique but recognizable and memorable.

Brenna Harding, Paula Arundell and Sophie Ross Photo: David James McCarthy

The cast of three women, Paula Arundel, Sophie Ross and Brenna Harding give outstanding performances in a play that is very demanding of performers, physically and emotionally.  Lee Lewis’s direction is visually exciting and maintains the right pace as well as light and shade in the dialogue.  Under her skilled direction, the actors have achieved an extraordinary depth of character.

The attractive abstract set design by Renee Mulder works very well with the excellent lighting design by Verity Hampson.  Sound designer, Steve Toulmin, adds a strong atmosphere to the show, especially with the alarming soundscape at the beginning that plunges us quickly into the horror of the story that awaits us.

This is a remarkable play by an exciting new writer that has been given a fine production.  It’s strong stuff and its message about violence towards women is clear.  It’s also very satisfying, emotionally involving and thought-provoking theatre.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on his ‘On Stage’ performing arts radio program on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3.30pm on Artsound FM 92.7.

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