Playwave Creative

REVIEW: The Climbing Tree

The Climbing Tree Cast

The Climbing Tree
Reviewed by Brianna McCarthy

Last night I was taken to the regional city of Bathurst for the first time while watching The Climbing Tree at Riverside Theatres. It’s a place I haven’t much connection to except through mutual friends. I knew it to be cold during winter, busy during racing season and not much more. I left the show feeling like I understood the social climate of the place from a young person’s perspective, and in admiration of its rich history.

The Climbing Tree surprised me with its ability to make the voices that seem to be drowned out in and around Bathurst and give insight into the types of experiences a life there might lend. It shed light on the lives of young people in Bathurst not only in the present but also hundreds of years in the past, and touched on colonisation in an individualised way. By this I mean that I was able to hear unique stories of experiences from Aboriginal characters in a way that was not generalised. It spoke for the kids in need of help in a place where help is unavailable and showed me what it meant to be brave against authority. With a cast of committed performers who seemed to be passionate about making this story heard, this was a show that broadened my understanding of the many experiences of being Australian.

The characters presented were dynamic and each offered a unique perspective on hardship in youth. The performances were all cohesive in energy but I felt a solid distinction between each of the four teenagers that I learned about. This coupled with the ghostly echoes of young people in the distant past that were presented through separated and stylised monologue meant I felt like I had a rounded and non-exclusive understanding of the topic at hand.

Bringing together all of these characters was the struggle against authority and the way in which young people may be silenced by those above them. What is described as an “us and them mentality” throughout the play was explored on many levels and in many different lights. Some were extreme and others merely burdening, with crime and punishment, freedom and obedience explored in each of the stories. The exclusion of an adult presence on stage meant that I truly felt that disconnect. Because of its focus on empowering young people and speaking to the universal experience of being too young to make a difference, this play translated well to an audience that was not so familiar with the setting. I did not feel estranged to this play despite not having the foggiest knowledge of Bathurst’s geography, history of community. I felt a little more educated and a lot more encouraged.

This is a show that I would encourage high school students in the west to come out and see. With the themes speaking directly to a high school experience and the stylisation being derivative of the style of theatre we make in school, I think it would be an experience that is empowering emotionally but would also be educational on how to use the skills they have learned in school at a professional level.

Riverside Theatres
22 - 24 November 2018

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