A Return to the Trees

CARRIAGEWORKS: An astonishing piece of physical theatre about the preservation of our fragile planet.
A Return to the Trees
A Return to the Trees is an astonishing piece of physical theatre, created by Strings Attached, a group of artists whose common aim is to create innovative theatre that challenges and transforms their audiences by reflecting on the mystery of human nature. Formed in 2007, the company’s style incorporates contemporary dance, physical theatre, aerial acrobatics, contraptions and multimedia – imagine a cross between Legs on The Wall, Force Majeure and Circus Oz and you’ll some understanding of the Strings Attached aesthetic.

A Return to the Trees is in some ways an apocalyptic imagining of the future. Set in the lowest rungs of a sci-fi/futuristic society where the Earth’s surface has been devoured by human greed and consumption, the company explores what it means to be human, in a world where survival is more important than custom.

The production investigates the transformations society may experience as a result of technical advance, overpopulation and climate change. As we continue to relinquish grass and grassroots for concrete floors and social complexity on computers, when artificial environments replace nature, will ‘Nature’ one day only be accessible to humans like wild animals in a zoo?

Dominating the stage is a towering, almost overwhelming eight metre high scaffolding structure; a futuristic, urban metal forest (are Tap Dogs in the next clearing?) upon which the fearless cast perform. These three men and two women seem boneless, and are death defying in their aerial acrobatics, bouncing, soaring, swooping and swirling with amazing balance and control.

Paul Selwyn-Norton’s choreography is often anthropomorphic, sometimes writhing and sculptural, sometimes oddly angular, though mostly fluid and based on the circle. Sometimes the cast are sloth like, sometimes they are slithery, or tumble in cascading rolls down a section of the looming structure; other times they are like mischievous monkeys. There is also a delightful romantic ‘bat’ scene with two cast members hanging upside down to close the show. At other points in the performance the cast were a wary, watchful group, aware of something just outside our line of vision but visible to them.

The highlights are a jaw-dropping, visually spectacular, extended aerial acrobatic/bungee solo and a section where the whole cast are bungee jumping/flying/hovering in harness. Dazzling stuff.

Nicholas Rayment’s lighting was extraordinarily atmospheric and lyrical. Benn De Mole’s rumbling, throbbing score, which also includes tinkling bells, pulsates, clicks and hisses like a weird forest creature. Pamela McGraw’s costumes could be described as ‘feral casual’, and allow great ease of movement even with safety harnesses attached.

A mesmerizing and visually stunning performance about the preservation of our fragile planet.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A Return to the Trees
A new work by Strings Attached
Devised by Alejandro Rolandi and Lee-Anne Litton
Director: Alejandro Rolandi
Choreographer/Assistant Director: Paul Selwyn-Norton
Performers /Collaborators: Rick Everett, LeeAnne Litton, Kathryn Puie, Tim Ohl and Lee Wilson
Understudies: Triton Tunis-Mitchell, Venettia Miller
Visual Artist: Chris Wilson
Lighting Designer: Nicholas Rayment
Costume Design: Pamela McGraw
Rigging and Structure Design: Alejandro Rolandi
Composer: Benn DeMole

Carriageworks, Eveleigh
May 17 – 19

Lynne Lancaster

Tuesday 22 May, 2012

About the author

Lynne Lancaster is a Sydney based arts writer who has previously worked for Ticketek, Tickemaster and the Sydney Theatre Company. She has an MA in Theatre from UNSW, and when living in the UK completed the dance criticism course at Sadlers Wells, linked in with Chichester University.