It happens a lot lately that I hear about a brilliant play and manage to nab a ticket for one of the last performances. This happened for These Trees Are Made of Blood, a show that was unusual to say the least: a cabaret about one of the most bloody episodes in twentieth-century history.
During Argentina’s right-wing dictatorship, between 1976 and 1983, thousands of citizens vanished, murdered by the military for ‘crimes’ such as simply going to protests. Their families were lied to for years about the circumstances of the deaths of the ‘disappeared’, as they became known. At the heart of These Trees, whose ostensible protagonist is the deceptively charming General, is one woman’s fight to discover what happened to her daughter.
It starts off cheerfully enough: we are welcomed to the ‘Coup Coup Club’ by the General and his cronies, entertained by the jazzy sounds of the in-house band (which would be worth the admission price alone). The new dictator presents an affable front, chatting with various audience members and introducing a host of magic tricks (which cleverly compare the illusions of conjurors to the tricks of dictators). But then things start to get really sinister, and we are drawn into the story of one girl, Ana, whisked away during one on-stage illusion, never to be seen again. Her mother desperately searches for her as the General’s hold on power begins to collapse. I thought director Amy Draper did a great job in managing the shift as the show moves from jovial cabaret to a more sinister experience.
The performances are superb, with a special mention to Rob Castell as the General and Charlotte Worthing as Ana. The band, with excellent South American-style music by Darren Clark and tremendous vocal talent in the shape of Anne-Marie Piazza, is excellent. An unmissable show that makes a strong emotional impact.