Tree Confessions, written by Jenny Lyn Bader, and directed by E B Mee, is a unique audio play told entirely from the point of view of a tree. Performed by Kathleen Chalfant, this is a site-specific piece which should be listened to while sitting beneath a tree.
The piece begins with a buzzing and humming sound, reminiscent of bees. The story is told by a single tree, who is embarrassed to be caught humming to itself, but takes the opportunity to tell the story of a scientist who discovered that trees communicate, with each other at least.
Presumably inspired by the story of Suzanne Simard, the persistent scientist is never actually specifically identified, but the trees, admiring her determination to prove her theory right, and being keen to seize the chance to help humans save the planet, decide to allow her to hear their communications, but they will only reveal the facts and nothing about their personal secrets or family lore.
The piece takes advantage of common stereotypes and assumptions about human society, for example the trees stating that all humans look alike, while trees are identifiably different, and the youth that human societies admire is reversed in tree society, as they admire the old and wise, going so far as to exaggerate their ages on occasion to appear older.
Trees mourn humans lost in atrocities and find such tragedies very difficult to understand. They are essential for nature to thrive and heal. Humans are more reckless, and their selfish actions lead to pain for the world. Trees do not use the scientific terms they have heard humans use, such as carbon emissions and photosynthesis, but they are aware of them. They feel that references to humans versus nature are unhelpful, as humans are as much a part of natures as the trees.
Trees, we are told, are an interconnected society who share thoughts and stories. History is passed down through the ages and shared with other plants and animals around them. The tree, in spite of keeping secrets from the scientist, does confess to the audience family stories and secrets, confessing the ways in which they raise their young and look after the earth around them. The tree confesses their methods around growth and maintaining selflessness being key to it.
Chalfant has a warm quality to her narration and creates an interesting narrative as she proceeds with her story. As the tree has lived its life for a number of years, it has discovered that it has a particular talent for remembering the weather of past years and have noticed that the world is increasingly becoming warmer. The tree is friendly and inviting as it recites its confession, and the references to the current state of the planet are subtle but thought provoking. This is an original piece of online theatre, which brings a new slant to the natural world.
Tree Confessions is being streamed by Camden Fringe until 29th August 2021. Tickets are available here https://camden.ssboxoffice.com/events/tree-confessions/
Reviewer: Donna M Day
Reviewed: 14th August 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★