The Red Tree (3 stars)

This article is from 2013

The Red Tree

Sensitive meditation on childhood depression

Refreshing isn't quite the right word to use, but seeing a children's theatre piece open with the bleak torch-lit sentence ‘sometimes the day begins with nothing to look forward to’ is a welcome move towards tackling head-on the feelings of childhood depression that can make life a misery for young sufferers.

In this adaptation of Shaun Tan's award-winning book, Madeline Shann sensitively adopts the role of a silent lone girl travelling through unfamiliar landscapes, meeting creatures that loom large and worrisome. A rainstorm sees people with umbrellas turn away from her, a giant jellyfish is both enchanting and overwhelming, and a hostile game of building blocks keeps constantly changing the goalposts of her path.

It is sometimes hard to see what value turning static illustrations into live action brings here. But the real star of the piece is composer Rob Hart, whose score maps out the emotional journey of the girl with a subtlety and immediacy that wraps you up in it.

Featherweight may have made ripples rather that waves in this small compassionate show, but they are tangible ones.

Zoo, 662 6892, until 26 Aug, 1.45pm, £8 (£6).

The Red Tree

  • 3 stars

A bedroom full of leaves. A paper boat on stormy seas. A fantastical odyssey. Shaun Tan's award-winning picture book is illuminated with striking movement, puppetry and live animation. For children and adults; for anyone who's ever felt lost: a story of coming home.