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Thursday 6th
posted by Morning Star in Arts

These Trees Are Made of Blood

Arcola Theatre, London E8


IF THIS all-singing, all-dancing, cabaret-style spectacular about Argentina’s dirty war in the 1970s and ’80s doesn’t get you to the Arcola, I don’t know what will.

Reminiscent of the agitprop “alternative theatre” in Britain of that time, These Trees Are Made of Blood is lyrical, poignant, cheeky and crude, with those in the front seats lured into banter with the evening’s MC (Rob Castell), which usually ends with a sting of ridicule from “The General.”

His portrayal of this character, responsible for the kidnap, torture and murder of journalists, trade unionists and assorted left-wing activists, is both charming and chilling and at times it has me shifting uneasily in my seat.

The “venue” for the show is the Coup Coup Club, at its best in dim light when the attention is gripped by the magic turns of Neil Kelso and the uber-flamboyant, exquisite dancing of Alexander Luttley.

Danger lurks in the shadows, though, and stronger light reveals these two as henchmen complicit in a vile dictatorship.

The masquerade starts to unravel as one mother (Ellen O’Grady) searches for her “disappeared” daughter.

Her voice, growing stronger, is joined by invisible others.

As one of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in white headscarves and holding photographs of their stolen children in Buenos Aires, she confronts these puffed-up, be-medalled lackies of the regime.

The fact that Luttley wears his medals as nipple tassles on a burlesque costume is no longer funny.

When he dances with scissor hands, it’s a grim foreshadowing of the horrors to come.

The songs by Darren Clark are mischievous and deft. The School of the Americas reveals the CIA’s underhand tactics in this slice of history, in a belting rendition delivered by the hugely talented Anne Marie Piazza.

The whole cast, in fact, display a myriad of talents — it’s ensemble performance at its zenith.

Director Amy Draper is clearly one to watch.

This is not an easy piece. But it bears witness to an important truth — resistance is never futile.

Ask the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.

Runs until July 15, box office:

Lynne Walsh