When you first hear that Tim Crouch’s An Oak Tree has only two actors and one has never sighted the script, let alone attended a rehearsal, you start to wonder what to expect. You soon realise when the show starts and the performance evolves, that you still have no idea what will happen. In fact even the two actors on stage don’t know what to expect, that is because two shows are never the same.
The Oak Tree is not your usual improvisation performance – if you are thinking comedy, think again. The show is about the power of suggestion, loss and grief, it is thought provoking and at times downright confronting.
Perth Theatre Company’s regular performer Luke Hewitt keeps a cool head as he plays a hypnotist and ‘leads’ a different guest actor through the show each night. The guest actor, (who was MLA John Hyde the night I was in the audience), arrives an hour before the performance with no clue about the content of the show – he is briefed by the director Lawrie Cullen-Tate to give an ‘open’ performance and meets his fellow actor on stage to get an idea of the performance space. Then without so much as a costume change, the guest actor is thrown on stage in front of the audience.
The guest actor is fed lines from Hewitt, from an earpiece and through various pieces of script. What unravels is a ‘raw’ performance, not one that has been polished or pre-prepared - only minutes into the performance Hyde was moved to a very real and emotional reaction.
The audience hangs on the edge of its seat, wondering how the unprepared actor will fare, almost feeling as nervous as the guest themselves. Later after the show’s conclusion Hyde admitted to the audience that the experience was more nerve-wracking than anything he’s experienced in parliament.
24 guest actors have been lined up for the Perth performances. Some of them include Peter Holland, Dixie Marshall, Tim Minchin, Peter Barr, Bernadette Young and James Pearson, but you’ll never know which one until you arrive on the night.
In writing An Oak Tree, Crouch admits he was frustrated by psychological realism of theatre, where rehearsal has been so carefully honed that the ‘liveliness’ of performance has been nullified. In this show he presents a different model, an unfinished piece of work, the performance is never perfect but that is the point.
This show is for the reflective audience, the type that likes to have a highbrow conversation over dinner with friends. If you’re looking for something a little bit different, something that challenges the conventions of traditional theatre, then this could be the show for you.
Perth Theatre Company & The Brainbox Project present
AN OAK TREE
by Tim Crouch
Director Lawrie Cullen-Tait
Venue: DownStairs at the Maj, (His Majesty’s Theatre), 825 Hay Street, Perth
Previews: Thursday 12 & Friday 13 November 2009, 7.30pm
Season: Saturday 14 November 2009, 8pm (Opening Night), Monday 16 November – Saturday 5 December 2009, 7.30pm (No Sunday performances)
Matinee: Saturday 28 November 2009, 2pm
Tickets: Standard $38.50, Concession $31
Bookings: BOCS Ticketing outlets | 9484 1133 | www.bocsticketing.com.au