Review: Tree at Alphabetti Theatre

A tender look at Alphabetti's most recent play that reminds us to step back and appreciate the Earth we live on.

Jake Watson
24th February 2022
Alphabetti Theatre's "Tree" starring Judi Earl and Jacqueline Phillips. Image credit: @alphabetti_theatre on Instagram

A theatre review is normally written in the early days of a production. It’s to tell you whether it’s worth your while to go and see the show – whether you should spend your pennies or save them for something else. This review doesn’t do that. Tree has now finished its run at Alphabetti. I saw it on its final night, but I am writing this review because I feel compelled to make sure it makes it onto the public record and into the Courier archive with the hope that, maybe, in 25 years’ time someone might dig this up and come across this absolute marvel of a play.

Alphabetti Theatre’s Tree is a beautifully touching reflection on our relationship with the earth and the friendships that we create with both nature and place. With sharp and eloquent writing from Gary Kitching and Steve Byron, the play explores the blossoming relationship between Jacqueline Phillips’ proud and boasting Rowan as she pays regular visits to Judi Earl’s stoic and all-seeing Hazel. As the action unfolds, the nature of their relationship unravels and we discover the insecurities that exist in the life of Rowan, rooted in a relationship with Hazel from a very young age.

What touched me most about this play was seeing two older women on stage; a section of actors that are so often little represented but have so much to tell. Phillips and Earl perform their roles with cutting accuracy and dedication to what is a beautifully written script. Their on-stage rapport is sharp, witty, and evidence of two actors who clearly know what they’re doing.

Tree is universal, not just for its themes, but because we all live on a planet that is full of abundant greenery.

The staging is sparse. There is little on stage but a bench and a chair – save for a whole load of rubbish that overspills from Rowan’s bag. A metaphor for the hyperspeed capitalism that sees us care more for the logos on our carrier bags than the leaves on our trees. But the sparsity of Rachel Glover’s set fits the space and the mood of the piece perfectly – drawing on the intimacy of Alphabetti’s space for what is truly an intimate play.

Tree is a play we can all relate to. It reminded me of the spot by a pond I always go to when I’m at home when I need to think; or the bench in Exhibition Park that my friend always takes herself to when she needs a little calm; or how my Grandma told me, aged 5, that she cries when she sees a tree being cut down. Tree is universal, not just for its themes, but because we all live on a planet that is full of abundant greenery.

If you are to take anything from this play: take off your shoes, run through the grass, look at the trees, marvel at the flowers, and breathe. It's time we started loving the place we live.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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AUTHOR: Jake Watson
3rd year French and English Literature student at Newcastle University, with an interest in all things Arts, Culture & Food. Fran Leibowitz wannabe. @JMichaelWatson on Twitter.

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