Brighton Fringe 2023
It’s been ten long years since Sleeping Trees performed In Brighton, ten long years with the weight of ten long winters. Well, they did perform Sci Fi in 2017, but that was in Hove. I reviewed them a few times and to be honest much of what I wrote I would write again about this performance.
Western was a romp through a previous show performed in front of an incredibly enthusiastic crowd. Sleeping Trees have obviously gathered a posse of admirers which made the show somehow terribly intimate as well as rip-roaringly funny. We all knew these guys – these guys! Which gender robs them for they are equally at home as a heavily pregnant wife, a seductive saloon girl, or indeed an abrasive and assertive salon girl.
The baddies are bad, your heart aches for the goodies but they are played by the same people. Your face aches with laughter throughout. I’m sure Sleeping Trees would be the first to admit (well they were actually) that it was a long time since they did this show, that it might lack some polish and lack the remembering of ALL the lines. But they’ve never had to remember ALL the lines because they can always make up something just as good and sharp in the moment. The crowd just laugh louder.
The Bosco was just big enough to contain the crowd but just small enough for you to see their intensely wonderfully expressive faces, twisting , contorting and changing in split seconds to entirely convincingly give you their next character.
I’ll try and give you a taste. They are debating the cheesy chips by the well and one of the characters sings his made-up song about chips. Noo don’t sing that says the well. The well is in fact Joshua George Smith, kneeling with his back to the audience arms stretched out in almost a circle to represent the well.
But he does sing the song.
“My arms are aching” says the well.
The well begins to lose it.
The singer begins to get it.
Now I don’t think this was in the script. Well it might have been. I mean it was a really bad song. But John Woodburn is there to seize the drama, says would you like to sing it with me? and the audience is eating out of their hands by this time. We do sing, the well gradually sinks and lies comatose and flat out on the floor. His whole posture silently screams “How can you do this to me?”
There! I put some name checks in – it only remains to name the third of the trio, James Dunnel Smith, the funniest and most convincing sardine in a tin I have ever ever seen – but that was another show (The Far-Away Tree actually)
Well, maybe you had to be there – I was very glad I was.
So what was it I said about them before? Well:
“Three Trees have a biochemistry about them that infects the audience, and could make a mixed metaphor like this have the audience guffawing out loud without any sense of transgression. But transgression is what is happening before your very eyes. Three Trees slip in and out of narrative, meta-narrative and meta-meta-narrative, but so sure footedly you are always able to follow where they are going. Their vast talent is always on display because every second of each of the three cast member’s stage presence is always individually physically stamped. This makes what could be bewildering transformations, from one set of characters into a completely different set, comprehensible and unbewildering and unbelievably funny. I have seen other productions that use this kind of metamorphosing of characters, but I have never seen it done so seamlessly and seemingly effortlessly.”
And I stand by it.
If you want tight, jaw droppingly funny, astounding physical comedy these are the guys to go for. Keep an eye out for them.