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Man changes tree into daughter

Tim Crouch, writer of an oak tree and Bristol University graduate

Tim Crouch, writer of an oak tree and Bristol University graduate News from Nowhere

Press release issued: 9 March 2007

An award-winning play by a Bristol graduate in which one of the actors walks on stage without having read a word of the script comes to the Wickham Theatre from London and New York on Tuesday 13 March.

man changes tree into daughter

A father loses his daughter to a car accident.  His response is to meet this loss with a colossal act of projection: he transforms the tree next to where she died into the girl.  For him, nothing now is what it is.  It’s like he’s in a play - everything represented by something else – but he’s never seen the words before and he doesn’t know the moves.

The man who killed the girl is a stage hypnotist.  Since the accident, he’s lost the ability to make a convincing suggestion.  His act is a disaster.  He’s a drowning man.  For him, everything now is exactly what it is.

For the first time since the accident, these two men meet.  They meet when the Father volunteers for the Hypnotist’s act.  He volunteers because he’s looking for some answers.  And, this time, he really doesn’t know the words or the moves...

writer changes person into character

an oak tree is a two-hander.  The Hypnotist is played by Bristol University graduate Tim Crouch (BA 1985).  The Father, however, will be played by a different actor at each performance.  That second actor, male or female, will walk on stage having neither seen nor read a word of the play they’re in until they’re in it.  Like the Father’s transformation of the tree, this is another act of projection: the projection of a performance given from one actor to another, from a hypnotist to their subject, from the audience to the stage.

an oak tree weaves themes of human suggestibility, art and loss through a vivid and absurdly comic narrative that swoops between a tree by a road and the stage of a pub.  It is a bold experiment in theatre form, but an experiment housed within a powerful and accessible story.  The device of the second actor supports that story but also provides a startling image of someone discovering their own meaning from moment to moment. 

Any actors who have already read or even seen the play will be disqualified from performing in it.  This is an exploration of the moment of discovery as well as in the power of suggestion. 

an oak tree contains that breathless balance of accessible narrative, complex idea, rich theatricality and broad humour which characterises Tim Crouch’s work.  It is a remarkable play that expands the ideas of performance and story-telling explored in Tim’s 2003 hit, my arm.

The play’s title makes reference to an art-work by British artist Michael Craig-Martin, An Oak Tree, 1973.  This work is a glass of water sitting on a shelf.  Beside it is a scripted exchange in which the artist explains how, through an effortless process of intention, he has changed a glass of water into an oak tree.

Tim Crouch’s first play, my arm, the story of the author’s thirty years lived with one arm above his head, opened at the Traverse Theatre in 2003.  Since then it has run in London and New York and continues to tour nationally and internationally. It is published by Faber & Faber, and was broadcast on BBC Radio Three in July 2004 where it won the Prix Italia.

Tim, a graduate of the Drama Department at Bristol University, is currently Writer in Residence at the Nationaltheater Mannheim, Germany, and Artistic Associate at the Franklin Theatre, New York.  He is also an Education Associate at the National Theatre.  an oak tree is a recipient of an award from the Peggy Ramsay Foundation.  It is supported by Arts Council England and Made in Brighton Ltd, in association with the Harbourfront Centre, Toronto.  It is a production of Crouch’s company, news from nowhere.

Presented by News from Nowhere, an oak tree has been developed in rehearsal with the performance writer and poet, a smith, and the dialogue specialist Karl James.  The sound score was created by musician and sound artist Peter Gill. 

an oak tree premiered at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh 2005. It has since been touring internationally, occasionally as a double-bill with my arm. It has just enjoyed a run off-Broadway in New York and at Soho Theatre London. Actors who have performed an oak tree include Christopher Eccleston, James Wilby, Roger Lloyd Pack, Hayley Carmichael and Toby Jones (UK) and Frances McDormand, F Murray Abraham, Laurie Anderson and Mike Myers (USA).

Further information

The performance takes place on Tuesday 13th March at 7.30pm in the Wickham Theatre, Department of Drama, University of Bristol. Tickets: 0117 987 7877 via Bristol Old Vic Box Office Mon-Sat 10am-8pm. Credit/debit cards 50p fee
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