These Trees Are Made Of Blood: A Cabaret Coup
Londonist Rating: ★★★★★
The premise of These Trees are Made of Blood — as well as its obscure title — is likely to make it a difficult sell with audiences: using frivolous cabaret acts and music to recount the despicable story of the late 70s Argentinian junta and the human tragedy of the Desaparecidos is not an obvious choice. But unsettling though it is, the show makes for an incredibly rewarding experience.
As they enter the Little space of the Playhouse, transformed into the smoke-filled Coup Coup Club (a better title for the play?), members of the audience are lured into a false sense of security and fun by the upbeat music of the house quartet, the comedy general MC's (Greg Barnett) purposefully lame jokes, and magic tricks performed with benign audience participation.
But the ambience quickly takes on a much more sinister tone, as the MC becomes more menacing and a coup (de theatre) shatters the complacent mood. Things are suddenly very personal.
The original score by Darren Clark, with its easy and warm melodies, contributes greatly to creating the atmosphere throughout the play, as the musicians become part of the action. It should appeal to fans of Pink Martini.
In the second part of the show, the conceit of the cabaret is mostly abandoned for a more straight-forward performance. This is perhaps a weakness in the direction, but it thankfully doesn't take anything away from the narrative and its power.
The grotesque of the Dirty War remains very effectively highlighted by the incongruous and ostensibly distasteful juxtapositions between the cheerfulness of the Coup Coup Club (with its faint echoes of Cabaret’s Kit Kat Club) and the political situation, as the extent of the horror is slowly revealed.
The superb effort of the cast in telling such a harrowing story was rewarded, on the night of our visit, by a standing ovation and quite a few damp eyes. Theatre doesn't get much more immersive than that.
Our advice is to sit close to the stage near the entrance.
These Trees are Made of Blood is at the Southwark Playhouse, Newington Causeway, Elephant and Castle, SE1 6BD until 11 April. Tickets are £18 (£16 cons). Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.
Last Updated 23 March 2015