Tree follows the story of Kaelo (Alfred Enoch) as he travels to his grandmother’s farm in South Africa to spread his mother’s ashes and learn more about his father. The play was inspired by actor Idris Elba’s album ‘mi Mandela’ which he wrote in South Africa following the death of his own father.
The Play describes itself as an ‘immersive theatrical experience’ and it certainly achieves that. From the moment the audience walks in they are invited onto the stage to join the cast on stage dancing to party music, it ends in the same celebratory fashion. Throughout the show props are passed around the audience as they become crowds at demonstrations, the sunrise and even stars. The immersive nature of the show works to its advantage, as it makes the audience feel a part of Kaelo’s journey and helping forge an emotional connection to the characters that the narrative sometimes lacks.
The set throughout is fairly minimalist with things being rolled on and off stage as they are needed. This sparseness makes in the final scene all the more impressive when the titular tree is built up and spreads across the entirety of the theatre.
Alfred Enoch leads the cast wonderfully, with the perfect mix of boyish charm and maturity. Surrounding Enoch is a tight knit ensemble portraying ancestors to protesters. Although they are on stage almost constantly their energy never falters and they carry the show well.
Before heading to London Tree made headlines, after playwrights Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley stepped forward claiming to have helped create the show, but were frozen out of the process – which is something the theatre strongly contests. The women are thanked in the programme but otherwise an outsider would be unaware of any issues. Hopefully this can get resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.
The show thoroughly blurs the lines between the cast and the audience, and by the end the audience are more than willing to celebrate with Kaelo and his new found family.
Tree will run at the Young Vic until the 24th August