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The Magnolia Tree

Home > Melbourne > Art | Theatre Reviews
by Felicity (subscribe)
A Melbournian who wonders as I wander. I have spent a lot of life colouring in moments and take great pleasure in creative expression of experience. Interested in Design, Art, Film, Photography, Painting and all things French.
Event: -
What is love? What is kind? What is selfish?
The Magnolia Tree Poster
The Magnolia Tree Poster

Magnolia Tree Expectations
Magnolia Tree Expectations

The vision

The Magnolia Tree is a play created by [B]the Wolves Theatre company [/B]founded by Michael Griffith and Rohana Hayes . This not for profit company creates and produces plays for people 45 plus. This focus develops mature, simmering work. The Magnolia Tree showcases how understated, real issues when brought to life with subtle sensitivity, can leave a life rippling mark.

A play about life

Magnolia Trees are considered tough, prehistoric flowers that predate bees and encourage beetle pollination. For a play about age and dependence, they provide a fitting title. It is also an artful metaphor, encapsulating all this dramatic piece really boils down to. One key question, perhaps we will all at some point ask, is age beautiful or something incumbent we poison with weed kill?

The imagery of this tree also does something else even more powerful and unsettling. Combined with ambient lighting, sound and nostalgic set design, it infiltrates the weight of this debate inside the audiences own memories of garden, house, home.

This is a confronting play about Euthanasia and nursing homes. It hurts, wounds, ploughs on. Don't come here to be entertained, come to get your morality ironed out.

From the first entrance into the Knox Community Arts Centre theatre, I felt I was in a familiar loungeroom. Perhaps your Grandma or Nan's was not just like it, but the old style furniture, lacy decor and gallery of family milestones, weaves a spell. Evident in every detail before it has even begun, is the love of a family. The weight of the family matriarch's presence - the one person willed absent throughout, is palpable.

Wall of Family Photo's Knox Arts Centre Theatre
Memory, Love

The Knox Community Art Centre, Stage, The Magnolia Tree, Setting
Set for an argument

Use of the sound of cicadas combines with magnolias to resonate the narrative into every onlooker's life experience. I think it is here that live theatre trumps film and TV for producing gripping viewing that reaches beyond mindlessness.

This plot is a human reversal of cicada elusiveness. The grown up children are not searching for the life signs, instead for the shrill call of lucidity. What validates a life as there?

There is nothing removed about the characters, they have no plastic sheen of fiction, they take the place of ourselves addressing a gaping wound that all families tread carefully. In the actor's body, language is the blueprint pattern of all family conflict. The big issues buried in small talk, the insignificant irritations, that wear big issues

The audience navigates gingerly the tightrope of family relations. The tension feels as sharp as the cicada song. A thunderstorm in the distance is a soundtrack which mimics an electrocardiograph. It marks the peaks and troughs of character anguish, as they tiptoe a minefield of distrust and refusal of understanding.

This play is unique in that you get a say in the ending. Having to vote further draws you into a debate you may believe you already have an unwavering viewpoint on. The son has come to convince his sisters to make a decision, he is just as much attempting to convince the viewer.

Love is twisted in a lot of loops. Used as a justification for choices each character believes they have the right to make. As you read every viewpoint through every other character's eyes, sympathies and identifications flit. It's amazing how a play about death is so much about life. The race to fill each moment with the meaning of societal status at cost of valuing what truly matters.

The characters sole activity throughout the play is completely one of evaluation and self-validation. The conversations mimic all the con-fuddling distractions that make it hard to see clearly - what we are really saying to each other and to ourselves? This play takes every viewer back to that early stage of separation between self and other and it encourages everyone present to take a look in the mirror and decide - what rights do I have over my own and another's life? How separate are our lives from our parents and what defines loving another person?

From the audiences concentration and lengthy applause, it was easy to sense that the actor's masterful characterisation had really hit home. The intensity fostered in the audience provides a sense you have really gone through something together.

Passion was ignited in my heart to see more live theatre. I got the chance to see this same feeling in another audience member's eyes. Having never been to a live theatre show before, they professed to be completely taken with the experience.

I think anyone who watches The Magnolia Tree will certainly leave in a daze of moved wonder. It is a value clarifying and thought-provoking experience. Maybe if you attended consecutive shows you might witness an alternative ending. Personally, I was exceedingly relieved and reassured to have the conclusion we got. It is cemented in my heart as the only one I could ever ask for, or live with.

The play really highlights how everyone's life is an open possibility determined by decisions. We are free to choose for ourselves - but will you decide this same freedom extends to choosing for others?

Please do not miss out on The Magnolia Tree. The leafy surrounds of the airy Knox Community Centre create the perfect atmosphere until Sunday. Beyond this, it moves into its final week of performances at the Doncaster Playhouse.

Knox community arts Centre, Leafy setting, theatre
Knox Community Arts Centre, Leafy Theatre Setting

Magnolia Tree, Play, Colour
The Magnolia Tree, a colourful metaphor

It is a unique and confronting opportunity to face up to all the niggling and raw moral dilemmas we push off into a future. It is a future at some point we all must own.
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*Felicity was invited as a guest
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Why? An Unmissable and life confronting experience
When: Friday 12 October - Saturday 13 October 7.30pm - Knox Community Arts Centre, Thursday 18th October, 2pm & 7.30pm, Friday 19th October 7.30pm & Saturday 20th October 2pm & 7.30pm at Doncaster Play House
Phone: 9729 7287 Knox Community Arts Centre, 98409382 Doncaster Play House
Where: Knox Community Arts Centre & Doncaster Playhouse
Cost: $30 Adult, $25 Concession
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