Old Growth - vomiting coins between the dour preaching

Old Growth, if he wants to bring a tree back to life, maybe he should plant one

For the record, I love political theatre and I love trees. Among what TJ Dawe would call my totem figures would be British political playwright Howard Brenton, who in my opinion writes precise, original, and brave plays.

When he and Tariq Ali wrote Iranian Nights in response to the Fatuah against Salman Rushdie, the point was to encourage dialogue between communities as an attempt to bring sanity to a world crippled with fear.

I have literally tried to save trees. With a small grass roots group in my neighbourhood, we kept note of all the trees at Vancouver General Hospital that could be saved when they were tearing down buildings and putting up new ones. I wrote a letter on behalf of the Turner Evergreen Oaks, and let it be known how rare and important they are to Vancouver.

So to recap, I heart political theatre and I heart trees. I saw Old Growth on Saturday, which is a political play about a tree, and it’s not for me.

Playwright, composer and performer Alex Eddington was inspired by John Vallant’s non-fiction book, The Golden Spruce, to create this play about a shaman/street magician who, with his friend Aura, is trying to bring a tree back to life. In the process, his character, also named Alex,  creates music and recites “envirologues” that remind us that the environment is not David Suzuki, Al Gore, or the documentary channel, but it’s real and we’re awash in oil and consumerism and the desperate state of the planet has to be fixed now. To illustrate these points,  Alex eat coins and then vomits them up, strips naked for a bit, and descends into madness, waffling, Hamlet-like, about whether or not he should harm himself. All the while, Alex and Aura, who call themselves Raven and Mouse Woman to emulate Haida culture, have a dysfunctional relationship to say the least.

I found the play dour and preachy, and strangely void of inciting dialogue. The last things I wanted to talk about afterwards were politics or trees.

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By Cathy Sostad