Monday 29 June 2015


Theatre review: The Liberty Tree at The Cockpit Theatre

©Nick Spratling

Rosa is a call centre worker and after a particularly bad day at work - the new owners have taken away their employees' bonuses and put them on zero-hour contracts, and the one person who protests the new regime is instantly suspended - she goes to bed only to wake up in the Land-of-Do-As-You're-Told; a magical place where she meets a colourful cast of characters while she's following a road to the liberty tree, a legend which can supposedly save them all.

Sound familiar?  

The Liberty Tree had more than just strong hints of the Wizard of Oz, updated for the 21st century and with a strong political message that is. It was an interesting concept and there were some great elements within the story to support the themes, but at times it went a little over-the-top trying to convey its message, when in truth subtle hints could've been far more effective than, for example, a character going on a Tory-inspired rant. It was entertaining, don't get me wrong, but it lost some of its powerful core along the way because of it.

I also have to question the choice to make this a musical, as I felt this didn't add anything of worth to the story and the individual performances of the still quite inexperienced students and graduates were understandably not anywhere near those I'm usually spoiled with at London-based performances. Acting wise they were fine and the ensemble pieces sounded solid too, but the solo scenes definitely needed some more work. The production also needs to lose the forced interactivity towards the end, as it isn't everyone's cup of tea - it certainly wasn't mine.

However, for a musical that originated at a university and was funded through Kickstarter, they put on an admirable performance with a for the most part solid book, innovative characters and a valuable message to take away. While I wasn't blown away by the show I attended, there is no doubt that there is a lot of potential there. I hope to see the seeds of The Liberty Tree grow into something much more polished and impressive over the coming years, as it's a story that really deserves hearing and it could potentially do very well as a play in theatres across the country. 

The Liberty Tree was only running for a few days at The Cockpit Theatre in London, however you can keep an eye on the website of production company Public Domain for updates about any possible future productions of the show.

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