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Festival Review: An Oak Tree ****

Michael Cox reviews a 'frequently funny, occasionally touching but constantly fascinating' production.

In many ways, it seems unfair to discuss An Oak Tree in any depth. The whole production is built upon an idea that seems like a gimmick: for every performance, writer/performer Tim Crouch shares the stage with a different performer who knows nothing about the show that is about to happen. Instructions are given to this performer, both out-loud and whispered via a set of headphones, and they discover who they’re playing and what happens in the story along with the audience.

Thankfully, this isn’t a mindless trick but an integral part of what makes Tree such a brilliant production, for what it actually ends up becoming is an analysis of the art of theatrical illusion. What is real? How much of the character up on stage is genuine? Do the actors and the audience enter into a form of hypnotic state during a performance?

It might not answer any of these perplexing questions in full, but it has the nerve to fully examine the art of theatre and illusion while telling an interesting story about a hypnotist and a performance that goes wrong.

The less one knows the better the experience will be. Frequently funny, occasionally touching but constantly fascinating, An Oak Tree is as good as its ten-year old reputation proclaims.

Performing at the Traverse Theatre until August 16, 2015. Check the website for specific times.

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