Lucid Magazine Review

Sebastian Frye Lucid Arts and Culture Magazine 2006

In a startlingly powerful performance at The Arts Project in downtown London, 18 year old Mackenzie Gruer takes audiences on a journey not only through time and through characters, but on a deeper journey through emotions and failure. Ghost of the Tree is the story of one family's tree traced from life to life until we arrive at the stunning beginning. The play rotates around several themes;the first being an oak tree with its endlessly growing branches and digging roots, the second is the women who are all at some sort of defining moment in their lives, and the third is the continuance of this story with a baby to each woman's name. In a series of character sketches starting at the present with a homeless daughter, then moving backwards with a hippie mother, a deranged housewife, a woman's revolutionary, a mentally deprived child, and then finally arriving at an immigrant from England, the story's power emerges from layer after layer of pain and hopelessness while still maintaining a desire for something to get better.

Mackenzie Gruer is an un-expecting lead with more than enough talent. As she saunters on stage to play the homeless junkie of a daughter she appears inept and distraught, distant and unqualified really. As one couple walked out of the theatre they mentioned they actually thought the actress was a poor one, but as the play rolled on it was the very opposite. With only minutes to release herself from one character and become another, she managed effortlessly. And with only herself onstage throughout the whole play the risks are high for an audience to wander, but at several parts audience members held their mouths in disbelief. The play was vivid and real, like it could have been dug up from the very earth the tree was planted in.

By sparing down the play into very essential elements, director Charles Robertson allows the shining performance of Gruer to be brilliantly displayed. By using only a piece or two for a costume and shifting the lighting direction, Robertson let Gruer transform the bare stage into her virtual playground. And not only were the imaginary sets and lighting admirable, the strings which clung close to the story were visible and tangible. It felt as if you were gripping each piece as it came to you until you reached the center of your exploration. Robertson's writing was also very admirable. With a naturalness and directness Robertson is able to create vivid characters that stick with you and define each era.

The play was a great surprise. Having gone to it merely because it was before The Black Roses Foundation. It was a highly-unexpected delight.


Playwright: Charles Robertson
Featuring: Mackenzie Gruer Director: Charles Robertson

Purchase a copy of the script



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