The Bleeding Tree

Angus Cerini
Jessie Anand Productions
Southwark Playhouse Borough

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The Bleeding Tree Credit: Lidia Crisafulli
Elizabeth Dulau, Mariah Gale and Alexandra Jensen Credit: Lidia Crisafulli

The Bleeding Tree opens with a mother telling her two adult daughters that she has just killed their father by shooting him in the neck. They claim to have assisted in the violence with one saying, “I knocked his knees out”, and the other that “I conked his head.”

We never see the man, but the women spend the rest of the sixty-minute play trying to dispose of his body and work out what they are going to say about his sudden disappearance.

Such questions are soon tested as individual members of the local community visit the farmhouse. The mother makes a passing comment that had the community done something about the abuse they suffered while her partner lived, these events may not have happened.

This modern Gothic horror set in an Australian rural farm is powered by short, angry, rhythmic sentences that make the women sound like an ancient Greek chorus hardly distinguishable from each other but ferocious in their story of the man who abused them.

The three actors—Mariah Gale playing the mum, Alexandra Jensen and Elizabeth Dulau as the daughters—give an intense, angry performance on a stage covered in red gravel.

Although the characters do mention abuse they have suffered, such snippets are likely to be eclipsed by the thriller elements of rats eating a man’s face and a dog chewing on the heart.

It’s the horror story that grabs our attention rather than anything else. There is no distinct characterisation and little in the way of story development.

Most importantly, the show does not give us any insight into the causes of male violence, or what needs to be done to change the appalling situation in which, according to the UN, across the world, five women are murdered by a partner or family member every hour.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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