BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

08/10/2015 - 08/10/2015

NZ Improv Festival 2015

Production Details

If you love a good family saga you will love The Tree of Lives.  We provide the family tree; you tell us which branches, eras and relationships you want to see.

A sweeping saga that spans generations – created by you.

BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington 
Thursday 8 October
$18 Full / $14 Concession / $13 Groups 6+ /
Two show pass: $30 Full / $25 Concession 
Book online at

Anne Wilson
Jan Feld
Isabelle Collins
Michael Boothby
Woody Tuhiwai
Daniel Allan
Deana Elvins
Ian Harcourt
Tim Gordon – MC
Debbie Klausen
Sam Irwin

Lighting – Darryn Woods

Theatre , Improv ,

1 hr

Potential still to be unlocked

Review by Jo Blick 09th Oct 2015

Every now and then you’ve got to go outside your comfort zone. Wellington improvisation stalwarts The Improvisors know how to do comedy so it was great to see them try something a little different last night with the Tree of Lives.

A reworking of a format devised by Tim Gordon back in the 90s, The Tree of Lives is an improvised family saga featuring, if not quite a cast of thousands, then a generous selection of Improvisors talent bolstered by some NZIF guests. 

The cast arrive on stage with their roles ready assigned. Each character is introduced and their relationship to the other characters explained. William Knight, an English immigrant, is the paterfamilias. We are then introduced to his daughter Rose and her husband Peter Ruru – and so we go through the generations, finishing with gangly young student Tom. Finally, we have the entire family tree displayed on stage. As MC Tim Gordon says, when the cast look behind them they will see their ancestors and when they look forward they will see their descendants. 

The job now is to tell the story of this family, described by Gordon as “just an ordinary family. They’re not unusual.” The audience and the MC help the actors put together a multi-generational drama, depicting how they fall in love and deal with the tragedy and comedy that make up our human existence. 

Gordon is an exceptionally able MC, taking suggestions, moving the actors on when need be and generally keeping things under control. It’s a big concept and the scale of it does cause a few problems. Even with a diagram of a family tree in the programme, it is sometimes difficult to remember who is who and how they are related. Also some great performers don’t necessarily get as much stage time as they possibly deserve. I can see how exciting and challenging this format would be to take part in, in a classroom or workshop setting, but perhaps it needs a little bit of tweaking in terms of cast numbers to make it more suitable for performance?

Personally, I enjoy seeing something that is more than just comedy. There are some lovely moments and storylines that would resonate with everyone. There is also sterling work from Cam Crawford on music and sound effects as well as Darryn Woods on lights. 

The best moment for me: the simplicity of the embrace between a mother and her dead son’s lover. My bottom lip may even wobble a bit.

Tree of Lives may not have captured me completely but there is a lot here to like and there’s potential with this format still to be unlocked.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council
Waiematā Local Board logo