An Oak Tree (4 stars)

This article is from 2015

An Oak Tree

credit: Will Adashek

Tenth anniversary celebration for Tim Crouch’s iconic experiment

When An Oak Tree opened at the Traverse during the Fringe in 2005, no one knew what to expect. A two-hander which one half of the cast plays sight-unseen? It could have gone either way. Now the show is back, after hundreds of performances around the world, for what feels like a tenth anniversary lap of honour.

Crouch plays a hypnotist who has knocked down and killed a 12-year-old girl. The other actor plays the bereaved father who turns up to confront him during his act. Gender and age are irrelevant; the performance I saw was with Aoife Duffin, appearing at the Traverse in A Girl is a Half-formed Thing.

And here’s what Crouch is getting at. In the theatre, we suspend disbelief: actors become characters, a chair represents a small child, a hypnotist makes a man think he’s playing the piano, a grieving father believes an oak tree is his dead daughter. Crouch’s genius is that, even as he exposes the mechanisms of this process, it does nothing to diminish the dramatic power.

An Oak Tree is far from a cold and clinical experiment. Against our expectations, we find ourselves drawn in to the emotional heart of the story, largely thanks to the strength of Crouch’s writing. And we remain there, invested in it, even as he dismantles the floor we believe we are standing on, one board at a time.

Traverse, 228 1404, until 16 Aug, times vary, £20 (£15).

An Oak Tree

  • 4 stars

Tim Crouch Man turns tree into girl. An intricate story of loss and suggestion performed by the playwright himself and a different second actor at each performance – an actor who has neither seen nor read a word of the play they’re in until they’re in it. This ground-breaking Obie and Herald Angel award-winning production…