BWW Reviews: New Work, THE BLEEDING TREE Shares The Aftermath Of The Justifiable Murder Of An Abusive Husband And Father With Dark Humor And Cry For Social Change.
Wednesday 5 August, 2015, 7pm, The Stables, Kings Cross.
The World Premiere of Angus Cerini's THE BLEEDING TREE takes the audience into a world where the victims of domestic violence finally get their revenge and the once silent bystanders in the community finally show their support. Director Lee Lewis has taken Cerini's detailed, descriptive, passionate and poetic words and bought them to life with through the trio of wonderful actresses, Paula Arundell, Airlie Dodds and Shari Sebbens.
The intimate corner stage of The Stables theatre has been built up to what appears to be a giant floral wallpaper origami structure of a geometric hillside marked with straight valleys and hardly any horizontal surfaces. The slopes allow for vertical variety as the full area is utilized as the action moves around the stage and focus is given to different parts of the theatre. The floral motif appears to double in its representation of the remote rural setting of the story and the simple bush home that the audience is asked to imagine.
As the theatre is plunged into darkness, a clap noise that grows in to a deep growling mechanical tone stuns the audience before a single light reveals a middle aged woman, (Paula Arundell) as a high pitched note permeates the space. The mother is flanked by her daughters (Airlie Dodds and Shari Sebbens), their dresses indicating level of simplicity in their homemade nature. It is here that the key to the story is revealed in that the trio has been responsible for the murder of the husband and father that was abusive and violent. The mother and daughter bounce between narration and clipped dialogue in Cerini's poetry as they paint the picture of the scene that lays before them as they stand precariously balanced on the uneven stage.
The language is a blend of simple uneducated imperfect sentences, coarseness and Australian colloquialisms, peppered with more complex descriptions. There is an initial requisite harshness in the language and the delivery as the hate for the man that lies dead on the floor drips from the mouths of mother and daughters but this is tempered by an innocence from the daughters as they look to their mother for guidance of what to do next and demonstrate a fear of being discovered. It is interesting to note that the playtext, on sale with the program, is a series of short sentences, not attributed to any particular character allowing more focus on the pace, tone and patterns of the poetry as the scenes are painted in speech.
As other characters visit the family, the fear plays out as the trio must keep calm. The voices of these unseen visitors are heard through the trio as they add these characters to the narration, thoughts and dialogue that is shared between them. As neighbors drop by, the trio realizes that the community that always saw the violence but did nothing is now willing to stand up and support the family in providing veiled advice on how to hide the evidence and conveying an understanding that they won't ask questions to seek out where the husband has disappeared to.
Arundell, Dodds and Sebbens deliver Cerini's words that have a poetic rhythm and tone with a balance of emotion that garners sympathy from the audience and a disappointment that the neighbours who had watched the violence through the years had done nothing. The daughters display a range of emotions and responses as they deal with their moral dilemmas from glee that their oppressor is gone, pride that they were part of the solution, physical revulsion as they view the body and fear that they'll be discovered. The mother, who would have been the focus of the husband's violence, is not plagued by a moral dilemma of guilt like her daughters. She instead seeks to protect her daughters as she seeks to hide the evidence and prepare a cover story, and later slips into a fantasy world where she sees humour and new life that can come from the evil man's death.
THE BLEEDING TREE is an important commentary on the extent of domestic violence and society's denial of it and their reluctance to help protect the victims before its results in death. Whilst this fictional community come together to show their support after the disappearance of the violent man that affected more than just the family, it raises the question of why they did not intervene before. THE BLEEDING TREE addresses the issue with passion, compassion, irreverence and gravity that hopefully will have audiences going away with the feeling that they have not only seen a great piece of drama but also prompt them to think about the society in which they live.
31 July 2015 - 5 September 2015
Griffin Theatre Company,
SBW Stables Theatre Sydney, 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross