The Bleeding Tree | Griffin Theatre Company

The Bleeding Tree | Griffin Theatre CompanyLeft – Shari Sebbens, Paula Arundell and Airlie Dodds. Cover – Paula Arundell. Photos – Brett Boardman

Darkness. A cacophony. Silence. Save for a lingering percussive tone, piercing, ear ringing. Flat-lining.

And then......... Darkness visible on a female face, emerging from the opaque blackness, then two more female faces, and from the utter silence, they utter bitter eulogy over the man they've just despatched.

“Girls I think your father's dead.
– I knocked his knees out.
– I conked his head.
– I shot that house clown in the neck.”

We know whodunnit, but why?

As the narrative unfolds in cascading chorus we discover abusive husband, fearful and frightful father, serial terrifyer of his family.

“Same old story, heard it a thousand times before, too many times to mention, same old story this time pushed too far.”

Shamefully familiar story, but The Bleeding Tree gives coruscating clarity, energy and power by word wallop, a trenchant text wielded like an emotional truncheon, bruising, bold and brilliant.

The Bleeding Tree is written by Angus Cerini and it won the Griffin Award for New Australian Playwriting last year. The play is reminiscent of the muscular poetic clout of the best of Berkoff.

Visceral vernacular is hammered and shaped on an anvil of versification, made buoyant and cast aloft, floating and soaring in lyrical triumph, creating theme and character and nuance.

Apart from the characters presented on stage, others are evoked by sheer storytelling strength in word and delivery. For example, the arrival of the postman who is also the proxy policeman of the area.

“Steve the postie copper Steve, thing what passes for judge and detective round here.”

As all the women are complicit in the demise of “Dad”, there is a sort of Murder on the Orient Express aspect to the deed. Postie/policeman Pete is no Poirot, however there is intuitive impulse. Pity is, intuition doesn’t play harder against hard institution. Domestic violence is endemic in society yet contrary to community. There's a flaw that remains unfixed.

The performances in The Bleeding Tree are pitch perfect.

Paula Arundel as Mum, Airlie Dodds and Shari Sebbens as the siblings, each sublime, intrinsic storytellers.

Renee Mulder’s set is a pyramid rake of busy floral carpet, symbolic perhaps of the traditional cosy floor covering of domestic bliss, under which so much domestic debris is swept; the rake implies her elevation to the moral high ground from the valley of victim-hood.

Strategically lit by Verity Hampson, this premiere production of The Bleeding Tree also boasts a subtly haunting score and sound scape by Steve Toulmin.

Director Lee Lewis acts as a sort of Kapellmeister, orchestrating choir, choreography and contemplation in a production that is accomplished and complete.

In her director's note, Lee Lewis states 'This is a hopeful play. I do it in the hope that in my lifetime it will cease to be a timely story.

I hope, in my lifetime, all men can say Amen to that.

Griffin Theatre Company presents
by Angus Cerini 

Director Lee Lewis

Venue: SBW Stables Theatre | 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross, NSW
Dates: 7 August – September 5, 2015
Tickets: $55 – $20
Bookings: 02 9361 3817 |

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