An Oak Tree, London 2015: Reviews

An Oak Tree has enjoyed an amazing run at the National Theatre Temporary Space. Feedback from critics, audiences and second actors has been overwhelming. Here are some of the press and blog reviews:

Caryl Churchill described Tim Crouch’s two-hander as “a play about theatre, a magic trick, a laugh and a vivid experience of grief, and it spoils you for a while for other plays”. She’s right, but An Oak Tree doesn’t so much spoil other theatre as offer a different manifestation of magic, one that doesn’t pretend to expunge the differences between art and life but draws attention to them. It circles elegantly around ideas of presence and absence, the real and the representational, doubt and certainty, even time itself.

…this is performative language in action

An Oak Tree isn’t a cold art experiment, but a piece of theatre underpinned by a wide-eyed desire to explore art, a genuine desire to entertain an audience, and a powerful reverence for the sanctity of grief.

It’s fair to say that some will find the enterprise too coolly cerebral or merely a hollow exercise. Crouch pre-empts such criticism by puckishly observing that his 75-minute piece is “thinly plotted” and “contrived”. But its artifice is knowing and provocative, and the slightly jarring cleverness is matched by real emotional density.

…this is no mere intellectual exercise. Crouch’s bold formal experimentation is in service of an empathetic tale suffused with grief.

Theatre, we know, is make-believe. Yet as Tim Crouch’s extraordinary two-person show reminds us, life is make-believe too. There is what’s real, and there is how we describe it. All the world’s a stage, as some other playwright put it.

I often think of theatre as a magician’s trick: we delight in the transformations, but we want to know the secrets of how it’s done. The real magic comes from knowing that it’s not magic at all. Crouch gets that. He lays it bare, riffs on it.

There are moments in Tim Crouch’s An Oak Tree…that’ll make your stomach twist and your heart race. There are also moments which will make your bum squirm and your heart freeze over.

An Oak Tree is an un-missable piece of experimental theatre, in which the blurred boundaries of both theatre and acting are pushed to their limit in this intricate story of loss and suggestion.