“Thanks mate, what is it?”
“Two men and a tree”
When I first unwrapped my brother’s present and saw the tickets to Tree on Christmas Morning, I didn’t quite know what to say: The picture a silhouetted man standing near a tree with a bucket hanging down didn’t provide much to the imagination. Simply put – I didn’t have a bloody clue what any of it meant.
Quite similar was my reaction when we arrived at the Old Vic, specially customised into an amphitheatre, to an almost empty stage except for a rather large fake tree. We then took our seats situated quite literally underneath the big bastard, right in the middle of it all.
It was all a bit disconcerting – would we be able to see anything? Would we have to spend the whole show necks ajar staring into the heavens? What the hell were we about to watch? It was only then that I realised the two men laying out the rest of the set were the actors, both Daniel Kitson and Tim key themselves.
My Brother and I sat in rather uncertain silence whilst the two chaps spelt out “ROAD” and “stump” in giant lettering across the stage floor whilst everyone else carried on finding their seats, shuffling awkwardly across each other not noticing that the two main cast members were already rattling away taping down (at this moment in time) irrelevant words in the space before us.
Until Kitson climbed up the hulking thing over our heads and all the lights went out. Silence.
What followed was 90 minutes of stomach-aching hilarity. It’s hard to say too much without giving away the story (indeed, finding out the truth is a major theme), but Tree towers above the rest thanks to the perfection of its script and the performers that so wonderfully execute it.
At times painfully funny and at others unexpectedly poignant, if not downright upsetting (as you mutter expletives under your breath), Tree makes so much with so very little. Simple props: a bucket, a muesli bar, a cup of tea, some nachos – although absolutely pointless if you haven’t seen the show, provide a beautiful sense of depth in this tale about two men and a tree.
On top of this, both Kitson (literally) and Key offer such genuine and natural performances that you end up forgetting about the absurdity of the show before you and really lose yourself. The rhetoric between the two intermingles beautifully; veering from slapstick to sensible. What is even more exception is that it never feels forced which is quite a testament to Kitson’s writing style.
It’s rather disarming to have a famous comedian brush past your feet while drinking a brew mid-act, but with Tree it only helps to engross the viewer that much more. Staring up into the branches of the tree made you feel a part of something.
Quite simply, Tree is a show I actively encourage everyone to see. No matter your sensibilities, you’ll find something to love and you’ll leave the building a little bit wiser but still scratching your head. Genius.