Socialist Worker

These Trees are Made of Blood—a jarring cabaret of state oppression and resistance

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2560

Neil Kelso as magician Sub Lieutenant Suarez in These Trees are Made of Blood

Neil Kelso as magician Sub Lieutenant Suarez in These Trees are Made of Blood (Pic: Helen Murray)

These Trees Are Made Of Blood
Arcola Theatre, East London. Until 15 July

This horrifying cabaret pays tribute to the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo—women who never stopped searching for their children “disappeared” by Argentina’s dictatorship.

It’s both strange and strangely effective. The right wing regime that seized power in 1976 is reimagined as a raucous variety show. Its compere is a military dictator making tasteless jokes about killing and torturing the opposition.

The fun is only marred by the mother of one victim refusing to play along.

Despite a routine put together to bury the truth, her intransigence gradually brings to light the terrible violence being committed out of sight.

There is kidnapping, torture, rape and murder, all sponsored by the CIA.

The transition from comedy to horror is excruciatingly uncomfortable and deliberately so. It’s jarring and inappropriate as befits state terror.

This emphasises the shock and isolation felt by the victims and pricks the grotesque pomposity of the autocrat.

Strong performances by Ellen O'Grady as the mother and Rob Castell as the General sharpen the contrast.

But the real stars are the play’s inspiration—the ordinary people who refused to quietly accept the crimes their rulers committed against them.

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