Tree at the Young Vic
Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah’s Tree is an immersive spectacle that transports the audience to a deeply spiritual and moving South Africa.
The piece began its life as a personal journey Idris Elba took when he returned to South Africa following the death of his father. And through movement, music and drama, Tree now tells a similar story of a young man, Kaelo, visiting the country to learn more about his father.
The overarching narrative may be simple, but this show is rich in complexity. It’s an internal struggle playing out on stage as it tries to figure out who is good and who is bad, what is right and what is wrong and how something could happen and how something could not. And just like reality, there are no easy answers, no settling conclusion to put the mind at ease.
Once we’re through the doors into the auditorium, the Young Vic disappears and theatregoers find themselves in a sweaty, energetic night club, complete with flashing lights and an over-excited DJ. We are invited to join the cast on the dancefloor (stage) and let loose before the story begins.
But the audience participation doesn’t end there; spectators remain a key part of the set, cast and atmosphere throughout, from having the sun rise and move between them to speaking lines on stage.
Alfred Enoch (Harry Potter, How to Get Away with Murder) has already made a name for himself in UK theatre, which comes as no surprise watching Tree. He plays Kaelo with a forceful authenticity that oft eludes theatrical stars. He is real.
The play also shows how that raw reality cannot also be an audio-visual feast. Music plays an important part in guiding the narrative while the performers move and dance elegantly. Plus, an ambitious 360° projection hangs over the enormous central stage. Everything works together to create an unforgettable experience.
Tree is immersive and experiential theatre without being crazed, pretentious or inaccessible. The show has a wonderful, deep narrative with interactive elements drawing the audience in and inviting them to be a part of the story. From the onstage talent to the spectacle of the set, there are plenty of reasons to go and see this play.
Photo: Marc Brenner
Tree is at the Young Vic from 29th July until 24th August 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.