Sunday, November 27, 2022

Fringe Review: Tree Confessions

Who: This Is Not A Theatre Company
What: Tree Confessions
Length: 32 minutes
Where: Bring Your Own Virtual Venue (accessible through Soundcloud)
When: July 21-31 as part of the Hamilton Fringe Festival
Tickets: $5 – $20 + fees at https://boxoffice.hftco.ca/event/866:663/866:5318/

If Fringe is all about pushing the limits on art, Tree Confessions definitely deserves consideration for play of the festival. As one of two audio-only entries, this piece truly pushes the boundaries on the normal listening experience of a radio play.

Premiering for the first time in Canada at the Hamilton Fringe Festival, Tree Confessions has already amazed audiences around the world having toured festivals in the UK, USA and China. Right off the bat, the audience is drawn into the play – being asked to pause and find a tree to sit under before listening further. Hitting pause on the audio stream, while taking a quick stroll down to the Grand River to sit under a tree I pass regularly on my walks, the excitement for what was to come slowly built up.

Finally hitting play, the dulcet voice of Kathleen Chalfant as the titular tree confessing her stories, immediately draws the listener in. With birds chirping in the background, the lines between play and reality are blurred – the mind often wondering is this the play or is this the natural surrounding. All this works to create a truly immersive experience and one that definitely fares much better by finding that special tree to sit by.

Playwright E.B. Mee drew on the academic research of Dr. Suzanne Simard (with the character Cindy a slight nod to her) to combine both factual science and education with a number of heart warming and thought-provoking stories from the tree. Worth a repeat listen, as you can easily get lost in the beauty of the play and miss a few moral lessons interwoven into the narrative.

You may get an answer to the age-old question, if a tree falls in the forest with no one around does it make a sound, or you may end up like this reviewer, hugging a tree, listening to the bark and hoping for a reply. Regardless, you’ll definitely come away from Tree Confessions with a newfound respect for trees – and the growth they experience themselves and share with us all.

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