These Trees Are Made of Blood at the Arcola Theatre is a delicious and frightening blend of Cabaret and Political Theatre. It tells the story of Argentina’s dirty war during the 1970’s and was inspired by director Amy Draper’s year in Buenos Aires and the ‘Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo’.
We begin at the Coup Coup club and are expertly entertained by the resident cabaret artistes The General, Sub Lieutenant Suarez and Wing Commander Campos. The audience are beguiled by song and magic before events take a distinctly darker turn.
Alexander Luttley‘s Campos is just sublime, a wonderful comment on political hypocrisy wrapped in a black corset and fishnets. In act two the drag queen aesthetic is pushed to its limits with the most terrifying use of the usually hilarious lip sync, it’s an incredibly clever piece of direction and expertly executed by Luttley.
The wonderful house band not only play a plethora of instruments between them and sing beautifully, but also play integral characters within the plot.
Charlotte Worthing is delightful as the young and innocent Ana and Ellen O’Grady’s break down as Gloria over the fate of her daughter in act two is heartbreakingly believable.
The show slips between immersive cabaret and naturalistic flash back scenes and the joins are seamless, Darren Clark, Amy Draper and Paul Jenkins spectacular tale is expertly woven.
Everything is beautifully multi layered and particular mention must go here to Darren Clarks music and lyrics. The gorgeous ‘My Little Bird’ which we hear near the start is just beautiful but when reprised delivers a real sucker punch.
‘These Trees’ is an arresting piece of theatre which brings the plight of the ‘disappeared’ and the resilient ‘Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo’ into sharp focus, leaving not only entertained but utterly devastated.
Reviewed by Byron Butler
Photo: Helen Murray