Theatre: The Magnolia Tree

The Grim Reaper has never been so interesting or personal.

The Magnolia Tree is a play that will transport you to a familiar place. A safe place, with a dark secret. There are old paintings on the walls that look in equal measure like they belong in a museum or a charity shop. Ceramic figures of French ladies of leisure, worn mismatched furniture, crochet. This is an elderly woman’s living room. Ageing, and sagging under the weight of time and overuse. The only thing missing is the smell of roast dinners and tiger balm that would infuse with the rug. But do not be deceived, not all the occupants of this house are safe – and you will choose the ending.

Michael Griffiths has written a play that will cast your morality adrift in an exercise of humanity. Combining moments of black humour and powerful emotion you will be forced to answer: Would you kill your elderly mother to spare her suffering?

The show fixates heavily on this idea, finding new and interesting ways to deal with the issue. A vote at the termination of Act 2 will allow you, the audience, the opportunity to decide how to end the show. A subject which in some inspires great outrage, and others pragmatic reason, nevertheless  strings together its intimate parts.

Jack, Deborah and Vicky are siblings. Gathered in the living room of their mother’s house, they reminisce and weigh up their mum’s future. In her old age Alzheimer’s has set in and Jack is confident her last moments of joy or clarity fled long ago along with her soul and sanity. Between the siblings love, money, and guilt twist and turn the story. Siblings turn against each other and form unlikely bonds as their personal lives blossom on the branch of this decision.

With strong performances from Rohana Hayes (Deborah) and Ezra Bix (Jack) the acting is of great quality. Special mention goes to Helen Hopkins (Vicky) who brings a real gravity and maturity to the subject matter. The three of them together represent the kaleidoscope of attitudes toward euthanasia.

Free from the political grandstanding the show is deeply personal and deals with the controversial matter at a human level. In the confines of La Mama Theatre the world outside fades away as the sound of cicadas in a magnolia tree opens the play. In here you are put in touch with your private self and ruminate on the cruel or generous act of killing the mother. Part of the brilliance of the show is that it does not issue a definitive statement. It goes to great lengths to not judge either the “kill” or “keep” position and instead fosters a world inside the grey area. This is truly exceptional given how black and white much of our media is on the issue.

The moment where you are asked to raise your hand to terminate the mother is truly a thrilling moment. Charged with the fear of judgement and possible persecution, regardless of if you vote for or against, watching to see if the hands rise around you is a fascinating experience. The act of public voting strips away the privacy of your own mind that you have enjoyed for the last hour and thrusts you into an exhilarating discomfort.

The play manages to remain modern and edgy without ever feeling like it is designed to preach or over extend itself. The narrative comfortably sprawls before you with moments of intrigue, devoid of pantomime, and an authentic feeling plot. Running for just over 70 minutes this is a great piece of no frills theatre that cuts to the core of what constitutes a good play.

The Magnolia Tree is also crowd funding to tour Australia wide – details below.

If you like a solid script and want to explore the depths of your own morality – this is the play for you.

Score7/10

 

When: MAY 17 – 28

Tickets at: http://lamama.com.au/2017-autumn-program/the-magnolia-tree

Crowdfunding: https://australianculturalfund.org.au/projects/the-magnolia-tree-a-revolutionary-play/

 

 

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