A new slice of home – grown theatre has been brought to exhilarating life. Now playing for a strictly – limited season at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Fairfax Studio, The Bleeding Tree is the perfect fusion of scripting, staging, and acting.
Penned by Angus Cerini, some of his previous works include 19 Trains, Save For Crying, Saving Henry, Seven Days of Silence, and Wretch. A man of many hats, as well as being a writer, Cerini is also a director and a performer. It should be noted that, thanks to a background in dance, his plays feature a strong physicality tied to both dialogue and text.
Without giving too much away, Cerini’s masterpiece could not have appeared at a more pertinent moment in time. Whether by chance or fate, the #MeToo movement comes full – force to the professional stage.
Clocking in at a brisk seventy – minutes, his story’s courageous and inventive narrative takes viewers everywhere. Furthermore, The Bleeding Tree packs as much punch into its compact running time, as shows which run twice the length.
First presented by the Griffin Theatre Company, and later, for a triumphant season with the Sydney Theatre Company, Cerini’s thrilling tale scooped Helpmann awards for best play, best direction, and best female actor.
Unfolding over three critical days, the story’s centre asks a number of life – changing questions.
When a tribe of women, a mother (Paula Arundell) and her two daughters (Brenna Harding and Sophie Ross) are pushed to the brink, to what degree are their actions justified? As viewers, we come to know the family through their anger, cunning and desperation. As they do everything to cover their tracks, memories and madness become quickly intertwined.
Language becomes our visual guide, brought to full and vibrant life through these characters’ eyes. Subtle and shocking in equal measure, we see what they see.
Played by Arundell, Harding and Ross, Cerini gives his protagonists Shakespearian importance. Their primal intensity reminded my astute guest for the evening, of King Lear’s scheming daughters or indeed, the iconic witches from Macbeth.
Stepping in and out of the first and third person, this particular narrative device allows the journey to mark time as well as keep fast in the moment. Other characters spoken for by the trio, such as concerned neighbours and a nosy policeman, ramp up the drama ten – fold.
Their chemistry together is flawless.
Deliberate technical choices through set design, lighting and sound, all highlight the overall experience. Deceptive streamlining means that no production detail has been left to chance.
Renée Mulder creates a stage space which is jagged, sculptural and dangerous. Built like an oversized abstract painting, this effect alone reinforces the story’s topsy – turvy world of murder and mayhem. (The Bleeding Tree balances this with simple costuming, giving the show classic yet timeless place.)
Steve Toulmin’s moody composition reinforces and heightens the action. His sound work undercoats the journey with pinpoint precision.
Lighting design by Verity Hampson alternates between searing day and ominous shadow. Two sections, the opening sequence, and another when the trio are at odds with one another, are particularly gripping.
Stage management is always seamless and fluid.
Intelligent direction by Lee Lewis unleashes an experience which is spare, raw, and uncompromising. In his care, viewers will be fully engaged at all times.
Playing until Saturday May 19, catch it while you can. The Bleeding Tree is not to be missed.