BWW REVIEW: Griffin Theatre's 2016 Helpmann Award Winning THE BLEEDING TREE Gets Well Deserved Restaging At Sydney Theatre Company
Tuesday 14th March 2017, 6:30pm, Wharf 1, Walsh Bay
Having had the privilege of experiencing the world premiere of Angus Cerini's THE BLEEDING TREE at The Stables in 2015, it was wonderful to see it take away 3 Helpmann Awards in 2016, and better still to see it restaged with the support of Sydney Theatre Company. With more space to work with, the expansion to the Wharf 1 stage has not diminished any of Lee Lewis' vision or Paula Arundell, Airlie Dodds and Shari Sebbens intense performance.
Rather than re-stating the impressions of the work, first reviewed in 2015 and available at the link above, it's interesting to contemplate the extra insight given when seeing a work again. Whilst it can be common to see different companies approach a play from a different angle and thereby finding a different meaning, seeing a work that is presented in essentially the same way, by the same performers, just expanded to fit a larger space which will also allow a wider audience, allows the viewer to see and experience things they may have missed the first time around.
Whilst the work is still confronting and shocking in its message that we, as a society, and individuals, need to be held accountable and not turn a blind eye when we see something that shouldn't be happening, it was interesting to remember how much dark humour Cerini has infused in his text and the brilliant manner in which Lewis has drawn this out of her three performers. The work has a fabulous pace and cadence to the language which paints a picture but the detail of the language and the intonation lights it up to elicit laughter tinged with a question, of 'should we really be responding this way to such gruesome imagery?'. In a way, it puts the audience in the place of rest of the community that the three visitors represent. In knowing the cause of the demise of the abusive husband and father, it is easier to share in the womens' glee, but it also forces the question of when and why do we go against our morals and ethics to accept something that we thought we would not support.
Another aspect that was forgotten to a degree was Steve Toulmin's sound design and composition. The deep mechanical tone that stunned the audience as it is plunged into darkness rumbles through the structure of the theatre so it is not only heard but felt, drawing the audience in to experience the intensity of the work that unfolds. Verity Hampson's lighting is eerie as faces emerge from the darkness and footlights draw out the texture of the hillside.
For those that missed the original season at The Stables, do not miss this opportunity to see this award winning production and see for yourself why it was so deserving of the 2016 Helpmann Awards for Best Actress, Best Director and Best Play. For those that did see the Premiere season, you'd know how wonderful it was then, and having the opportunity to revisit it exposes new things. It is an important work for the message it holds regarding family violence, standing up and speaking out when something is wrong and protecting the members of society that may not be able to defend themselves. It is fabulous to get to see an Australian work with Australian performers and creators be celebrated, awarded and given a wider audience on an Australian stage and hopefully will make it to stages around the country before too long.
Wharf 1, Walsh Bay, Sydney