- Alice Duboin
Review - The Woman Who Turned into a Tree
Updated: Apr 14
Playing until 22nd April 2023
Writer: Lisa Langseth
Director: Emily Louizou
Translator: Rochelle Wright
Photo credit: Lucy Feng
“The Woman Who Turned into a Tree” sets the scene for the audience before the show even starts by transforming the auditorium into a dark space filled with random black furniture daubed with depreciative messages, dark and flashing lights and depressive music. As the audience starts to fill up the room, a young woman at the back of the stage starts to dance to different versions of the same song over and over. She seems lost in her own world, does not look to the audience and continues to dance until the stage is dark and silent.
Then in a blond wig and a sparkling skirt, Daphne (Bathsheba Piepe) walks in. A young woman working at a swanky nightclub and she presents us the rules for becoming her perfect self. These include how to act and dress on social media, and her ultimate goal, to exist. Her facial expressions demonstrate how much she believes in what she says and how important this is to her. Suddenly she is joined by her twin, who wears the same wig, same skirt and the same crazed look in her eyes. It is soon revealed that this is not a copycat or a doppelganger, Ioli Filippakopoulou plays Daphne’s shadow split self, the self-hatred part. The two Daphnes dance, a duo which bring them from full self-esteem to the deepest self-hate.
Piepe’s Daphne is given the important task of welcoming VIP at the Club. In a fleeting moment, she is regarded as beautiful and interesting by one of the guests, Jasper, even though this is based on lies as she is pretending to be somebody else. However, her joy is interrupted by her father phone call from the mental institute. He repeats the mantra again and again: “Remember Daphne, first you are a seed, then you become a tree, then you become a forest.” To which, Daphne answers, “I know Dad, I am just a seed”.
In the stupor, Daphne looks at the audience and start complaining about the tree in of front of her apartment, who in her head almost becomes a person. The tree annoys her with its big branches in front of her windows, no matter how hard she tries to get rid of them. However, it remains, watching her, judging her.
Both Daphnes look at each other, and we see them irremediably slipping to the self-hated side. In their dialogue, the two shadows replicate each other. Piepe’s acting is all in the hysterical movement, While Filippakopoulou’s movement are powerful and at times, painful. Both actresses deliver a highly expressive performance and they easily drag us to their lunacy, immersing us deeply in their emotions.
The dark stage, the stroboscope and the depreciatively gratifying words such as “ugly”, “pathetic”, “loser”, “cheap” clash inside Daphne’ mind and she and her doppelganger navigate into this infernal circle between lucidity and loss of reality. What is real, what is perception and where are they?
Without a doubt, the story of Daphne that turned into a tree to escape from Apollo is well featured, and adapted by the author to showcase the vulnerability of Daphne even in this modern-day society. However, the play features many different mini-stories, including the adaptation of a Greek mythology, the potential genetic factor to mental health in Daphne’s family, and the involvement of Jasper. However, these parts felt separate, distinct and could be further joined up in a more coherent manner. Nonetheless, this play is powerful, disturbing, chocking and makes the audience hold their breath until the end. Despite its shortcomings, the writer succeeded in bringing the audience to the brink of insanity.