No props, no costume, and enough energy and imagination to create their whole world: The Sleeping Trees Treeology is a triumph in storytelling. The three performers (James Dunnell-Smith, Joshua Geroge Smith, John Woodburn) throw themselves into character after character with rapidity and conviction to tell one of the three stories, which they perform on rotation. This review is based on watching their retelling of Treasure Island, but should the company transfer the same panache to their other tales – The Magic Faraway Tree and The Odyssey – all promise to be fantastic.
While most of the performance is tightly scripted to permit the story’s explosively fast pace, there are also spaces for improvisation, which keeps the performance wonderfully fresh and exciting.
The story is told with such energy, rapidity and conviction that we can do nothing but dive headfirst into the narrative with the performers. The actors are so in tune with each other that the pace never slows, and there is never a dull moment. Even though Treasure Island is a well-known story, the performers constantly subvert expectations to great comic effect, and delight with imaginative use of physical theatre.
An elaborate set is created not just by the actors’ vivid descriptions, but by their bodies. One moment they are a flight of stairs, the next, the hull of a ship, the next, a flaming building. Props are evoked through vocal sound effects: this cast has a repertoire that is as impressive as it is ridiculous. While most of the performance is tightly scripted to permit the story’s explosively fast pace, there are also spaces for improvisation, which keeps the performance wonderfully fresh and exciting. The script is also peppered with self-referential humour, and this cast has the rare gift of being able to make meta-jokes without even the smallest hint of pretension.
What Sleeping Trees do is inventive, absurd and utterly, utterly hilarious. Every second of stage time is packed with energy by this exciting and up-and-coming company.