Wrong Tree’s Synthesise is a production that combines the uses of sound, lighting, dialogue, and visual interludes to blur the boundaries between consciousness and unconsciousness, reality and unreality. This sounds like a daunting task to undertake, but it is executed very successfully – the play is mostly comprised of conventional dialogue scenes between the characters, which works effectively as a means of character and plot development, and keeping the audience engaged.
The play centres around five women who meet in a waiting room of a clinical trial for a drug that they have taken, and explores a number of different themes. Most notably amongst these are ideas of mortality, and the relationship between medicine and hope for the future. On a more subtle level, the play also explores notions of female friendship, discussions surrounding capitalism and privilege, the importance of memory, and complex mother-daughter relationships.
One thing that surprised me about this play is how funny it was – it actually made myself and other members of the audience laugh out loud. The show opens with the main character Isla flicking nonchalantly through a magazine in the waiting room, commenting on Jake Gyllenhaal and making other relevant pop culture references. Upon the introduction of Alice, an element of sarcastic humour is also brought into the play through their dialogue. The way that the play introduces each of the characters one by one works well, as we get to know each of their distinctive personalities as they are introduced over the course of the show.
The minimal set design of just a potted plant, water cooler and one chair works effectively to indicate that they are in a waiting room, and its bareness helps to emphasise the clinical and impersonal feeling of the trial.
There could not be a review of this play without paying some attention to the phenomenal tricks of sound, lighting and visual interludes between the scenes. The movements were mesmerising to watch, and the scene in which Marianne is crying out ‘Why can’t they hear me? Why can’t they hear me?’ whilst the music is drowning out her voice is an effective moment both symbolically and for the senses. The sound and lighting team did an excellent job, and the visual interludes make this play like nothing that I have ever seen before – they are also successful in indicating moments of hallucination and internal struggle, thereby heightening the intensity of the play.
I also found the concept of the play to be very interesting and thought-provoking – the play begs the question of what would you risk, in order to potentially save your life?
The play also has a dark twist towards the end, which in some ways you can see coming from very early on in the show, but in others still takes you by surprise in the way that it is executed.
However, I did leave the theatre with some question marks over my head about the sub-plot of Alice’s twin brother, Damian – there are a couple of references made to him being in the same situation as the women in the waiting room, but he never arrives. If there is a sinister reason for this, it is not elaborated upon at all.
Nevertheless, the rest of the plot and meaning of the play is clear, which is helped by the excellent acting and characterisation. The characters come from a variety of different backgrounds including age, class and experience, which I found compelling.
In short, get yourself over to the Assembly Rooms theatre between Friday 3rd December – Saturday 4th December at 9 pm with a negative LFT to see this incredible all-female student production. It will not only make you think and question your own reality, but is also guaranteed to make you laugh out loud.
Image credit: Wrong Tree Theatre Company