I’ve just been to a couple of outstanding productions put on by the Tree Shadow Theatre Company – both at the Artrix Studio in Bromsgrove. I was there because I had talked myself into being the official photographer!
Last week’s show was How Well You Know Me, which was a double header of two intensely psychological plays. Yellow Wallpaper was originally written as a short story by a woman who survived the ‘rest cure’ – an attempted solution to post-natal depression in the 1930s which was more likely to send a woman into insanity rather than save her from it. For the two women in this play, starved of external stimuli, the wallpaper itself starts speaking to them…
This was followed by Overtones, a conversation between two women who meet again, after one of them has married the other’s former partner. On the surface they are well mannered and amicable, but their psyches act out the seething emotions and the scheming that is boiling under the surface.
All four actors produce strong performances and complement each other well. In both, Sally Geake plays the more combustible roles, compelling the audience’s attention throughout. In Yellow Wallpaper, Hannah Brooks plays a more vulnerable and tender character, but in Overtones is scarcely less fiery than Sally Geake.
On Saturday, a packed audience watched Last Embrace, a play written and directed by Louisa Wilde. It’s an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, set in Northern Ireland during The Troubles of the 1970s. The show was first staged at the Edinburgh Fringe, and garnered a five-star review from Broadway Baby.
Ronan is a Catholic who falls in love with Julia, a Protestant. Swept along both by their love for each other and their desire to break out of the constrictions of their political and religious environment, they get married. This only exacerbates the very tensions they try to escape from, preparing the path for the inevitable tragic end.
Rory Vieyra’s Ronan is a louche character, very well supported by the rascally Joe Stephenson and Oliver de Rohan. The three work well together, so much so that they give the impression that they could be as much trouble off stage as they are on it! Sally Geake’s Julia is headstrong and foolhardy – no-one will defy her desire to marry Ronan – but by the end she is shell-shocked, going through mood changes that are utterly convincing.
I’m no theatre critic, but what struck me was how the entire audience was completely absorbed by the drama. This is a very gifted cast, with a very talented young writer and director in Louisa Wilde.
So how did I end up being the official photographer? The company is run by Louisa and her mother, Ruth Mace: Ruth runs MAD (Martley Amateur Dramatics), which puts on annual pantomimes in the village, and also provides much of the music at Martley Church. This therefore provided an opportunity both to extend my photographic repertoire while doing something that might benefit Tree Shadow!
They are now embarking on a couple of weeks in London at the Hen and Chickens theatre in Islington.