Scarabeus Theatre Company, Arboreal - Living in Trees

Review in Issue 10-2 | Summer 1998

Inspired by the work of Italo Calvino, Arboreal - Living in Trees tells the story of a boy who, stifled by the constraints of his family, decides to live the rest of his life in trees. There he finds a new freedom, albeit one that is threatened by loggers and his own gradual decline into madness. Scarabeus translate the narrative through their own special brand of acrobatic, stilt and aerial magic, including fireworks, gorgeous costumes, video projection and a brilliant musical score.

Appropriately, this outdoor performance was staged with the concrete bank of a main road as a backdrop, where urbanisation meets the sea. The set is a metal structure representing a tree upon which the performers confidently clamber and swing. There are moments of real beauty and theatrical power. Loggers on stilts crash through the audience, fireworks explode and a dangerous battle between the loggers and the inhabitants of the trees ensues. As lovers embrace, the moment is captured in an enlarged pink spotlight adjacent to a video image of bodies spinning through the sky.

Arboreal is an ambitious project, with the potential to be a visual and intellectual feast. However, the combined demands of costume changes and narrative substance make it ponderous and drawn out. The production is yet to find a satisfying balance between its visual spectacle and the eco-friendly message it promotes. Until that happens, the strength of the costumes and set alone are not sufficient to sustain it.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Date Seen
  1. May 1998

This article in the magazine

Issue 10-2
p. 21