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5 Star - TREE is boldly immersive, beautifully created and masterfully told

01/08/2019 7PM | REVIEW | Jacqueline Malcolm

TREE is boldly immersive, beautifully created and masterfully told.

When A-list actor, producer and director Idris Elba and the Young Vic’s Artistic Director, Kwame Kwei-Armah decided to collaborate I wonder if even they realised the sheer brilliance their union was about to unleash into London’s theatre world?

TREE is the perfect title for this powerful story which is told to us in a fusion of dance, movement, sounds and drama. It starts with the not-to-be-missed pre-show where members of the audience are invited to join the cast on stage and simply enjoy the space and the vibrancy of the moment. But we soon discover that this interaction is all necessary toward building the audience consent with this very interactive and immersive piece of work. The opening narration spoken directly to the audience sums it up superbly, ‘For the duration of our story, you will be everybody and everything. The dead, the living, the sun, the moon, the clap of thunder, the people oppressed and those oppressing. Are you ready?’

TREE tells the story of Kaelo (Alfred Enoch) who, at the death of his mother, Cezanne (Lucy Briggs-Owen) returns to South Africa that he might scatter her ashes on the grave of his father, Lundi (Kurt Egyiawan). But upon arrival he is met by a somewhat unwelcoming grandmother, Elzebe (Sinead Cusack) and a swarm of ancestors who visit him in his dreams revealing to him the secrets held within the land itself. His chance meeting with his grand-father, Gweki (Patrice Naiambana) and the unravelling of his hostile relationship with his half-sister, Ofentse (Joan Iyiola) brings Kaelo to a final life altering discovery of not only his father and his legacy and the breakdown of the relationship between his own mother and grandmother, but more importantly, an understanding of his own authentic self.

TREE is masterful storytelling that goes way beyond the normal confines and restrictions of UK theatre. It is innovative, boldly immersive and openly invites us all to return to our roots so we might connect with each other on a deeper level.

Directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah and co-written by Idris Elba, TREE is a hugely successful innovative piece of immersive work that is culturally diverse both on and off the stage.



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