An Oak Tree

Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

02/07/2011 - 30/07/2011

Production Details

A bold and absurd play about the power of the mind terrifies Wellington actors!

The premise of Circa Theatre’s upcoming play An Oak Tree written by Tim Crouch is a daunting and exhilarating prospect for any actor. Actor Tim Spite will share the stage every night with a new actor who has never seen the script!

“It could be a f@#king nightmare; a different actor, a different performance every night. How the bloody hell am I going to prevent myself from being thrown. It’s bad enough with senile actors who forget their lines occasionally… but this person won’t know any of the lines. Help!!!” – Tim Spite

AN OAK TREE is a remarkable play for two actors, one of whom is played by a different actor – at each performance. This actor walks on stage having neither seen nor read a word of the play that they’re in… until they’re in it!

The new actor plays a man loses his daughter to a car crash. Nothing now is what it is. It’s like he’s in a play – but he doesn’t know the words or the moves.

“I’m terrified!” says Spite. “I’ve just spent five weeks rehearsing with my stage manager reading the other persons lines for me. I’ve no idea what to expect. I have to guide some poor bewildered actor through the show and god knows how they’re going to react! What if they get Sir Ian McKellen? I’ll shit myself.”

Confirmed actors to date include Michele Amas, Jason Whyte, Jane Waddell, Gavin Rutherford, Darlene Moheke, Heather O’Carroll, Phil Grieve, Jessica Robinson, Simon Vincent, Geraldine Brophy, Martyn Wood, Emma Kinane, Kip Chapman, Adam Gardiner, Miranda Harcourt, Paul McLaughlin, Chris Brougham and Anya Tate-Manning – with many more to come.

Guest actors will be updated on the Circa web page every Monday so check out  to see who will be performing each week!

“Absolutely****ing fantastic!!!” – The Observer
“It’s mind blowing – for the actors and the audience.” – The Herald

An Oak Tree
2 – 30 JUL, 7.30pm
Sunday Matinee 4.30pm
Circa Two, 1 Taranaki St, Wellington
BOOK: 04 801 7992 or   

Tim Spite as HYPNOTIST
Our Guest Actor as FATHER

Lighting Design by Ulli Briese 

Stage Manager: Miriam Sobey  
Technical Operator: Ulli Briese  
Publicity: Brianne Kerr                  
Graphic Design: Andrew Foster
Photography: Matt Grace
House Manager: Suzanne Blackburn
Box Office: Linda Wilson
And to our Special Guest Actors – we thank you for your talent and bravery!  

1hr 10mins, no interval

Profoundly entertaining

Review by John Smythe 02nd Jul 2011

I confess to feeling trepidation at the premise of this show: two performers only one of whom has rehearsed; the other is different every night yet plays a crucial role. Is it just a gimmick? Has live theatre become so desperate that a good story well produced is not enough?

Rest assured An Oak Tree fully justifies its multi-layered self as a rich theatrical experience; intriguingly complex in its conception yet simple in its execution. It is something you could only possibly find in the theatre and that alone is reason enough to go.

Tim Spite, who chats with audience members as they arrive, introduces himself as himself and plays the role of The Hypnotist. His guest actor – Darlene Mohekey on opening night (it was Hadleigh Walker for the preview, it’ll be Richard Chapman for the Sunday matinee) – plays the ‘Father’.

Having a woman play Andy – the father of daughters Claire and Marcie; husband of Dawn – becomes entirely convincing and is bang on theme because at every level, from every angle, the play is about the power of suggestion, as in hypnotism, as in theatre, as in the ways we cope with life.

Why call it An Oak Tree then? Well, apart from its being a multi-branched thing that has grown from a core idea, it is the site of a life-changing event. And it becomes a 12 year old girl, because the father needs it to.

Confused? Don’t be. It unfolds very clearly on the night. Spite explains the who, what, where, when and a bit of the why as we go – including the small detail that the event has not yet happened; it’s a year away – and he coaches his guest, with openly stated instructions, things whispered into a mic for Father’s ear-phoned hearing only, and with scripted sequences plucked from a piano stool.

With all this going on you would think the credibility of the hypnotist’s show would be impeded and the core story – the event involving the tree – would have trouble gaining traction. But no. Despite all the artifice around it the story (which has not yet happened) is deeply affecting.

Much could be discussed about the psychology of the human behaviours and the metaphysics embedded in the work but I don’t want to give any more of the show away. Trust me: you will be entertained; profoundly, if you are of a mind to enquire into how something so artificial can simultaneously be so real.

Carl Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’ adds majesty to the proceedings and some solo piano pieces gain in poignancy as the real (if yet to happen) story unfolds. Ulli Briese’s lighting design and technical operation enrich the experience and director Andrew Foster pitches proceedings at just the right level.

Tim Spite slips subtly into his character and out again as occasion demands, and with an ease that belies the complexity of the process, supports and reassures his guest while sometimes having to challenge the Father and be confronted by him. The question or who might be manipulating whom arises too, adding more intrigue to the mix.

It was particularly intriguing to see Darlene Mohekey step up to this role as her strong suit has always been wacky characterisations and here she is stripped of any chance to revert to the tricks of her trade. Just go with the flow, be true to each moment and let it evolve is what is required; a proposition both simple yet terrifying. It may well be failsafe (it’s tempting to go a few more times to check it out) yet it feels like a great achievement on the night.  

Enough said. Just go. This is what theatre is all about.
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