Arbo-really Brilliant Play From Kitson And Key
Londonist Rating: ★★★★★
In a setup that was bound to earn comparisons to Waiting for Godot, Tree has two men fixed to the spot by an arboreal centrepiece — this one thrusting up into the gods and tickling the ceiling of the Old Vic. Daniel Kitson plays an eccentric branch dweller who's shifted his entire life into the foliage. A de-bearded Tim Key bumbles on stage as the "fucking pillock" who has a picnic date, but forgot the clocks go back, so is an hour early. To pass the time, he engages in a spot of fat chewing with the lofty, loudspeaker-wielding odd bod, unaware what he's getting himself into.
Kitson, who wrote Tree, is a masterful storyteller, and it's a play with beautiful attention to detail — from Key's woeful chat-up attempts (at one point he spills guacamole over his target), to Kitson's run-in with the ferociously community-minded Lee, a man who wants to slice down every tree on the street just to make a point. This is a two person play, but between them, Kitson and Key concoct an arsenal of comedic characters. It's a joy to watch two of the best living comedians play anecdotal ping-pong — made all the funnier by the staging of neck-craning Key below the tree, and Kitson up it.
And Kitson is really UP that tree. For the duration of the play (90 minutes, no interval). While sometimes it's difficult to make him out at all (at which point it's like encountering some extremely witty foliage), this isn't a gimmick. Kitson's sparky character really has the upper hand, and his physical position reflects this. You've got to hand it to him for swinging from branch to branch while delivering his lines, too. Decent actors own their space, and Kitson owns this tree.
As with much Kitson/Key material, there is something black bubbling away in the background. Throughout Tree, we're never quite sure which character to trust (if any), and the play is sprinkled with tasty little reveals, becoming meatier as it heads for the climax. Tree is two comedians excelling themselves both in acting and storytelling. Waiting for Godot was never as funny as this, either.
Tree is at The Old Vic, The Cut, SE1 8NB, until 31 January. Tickets £9-£16.
Londonist paid for its own ticket to see this show, and it was worth every penny.
Last Updated 08 January 2015