Intimacy, Sentimentality and The Dummy Tree

Connor Mitchell’s musical finds its roots in a Tesco car park in Grimsby, where the real-life “Dummy Tree,” once stood. Hung with an ever-increasing cargo of gin bottles, dummies, and cigarette packets, the “Dummy Tree” became a heart-warming symbol within a grittily urban world, for anyone trying to give something up.

As the separately sung thoughts of nervous bridegroom Paul (Chris Morgan) and young mother (Kathryn Armstrong) blend seamlessly together, it is immediately apparent how perfectly (and surprisingly) suited the almost operatic performance style is to Mitchell’s subject matter. The fact that this is an incredibly musically-strong cast is rapidly established, as is a confidence that the perfect-pitches are far from coming at the expense of the acting. Accents are constantly maintained, particularly by fretting wedding-planner Mingham (Elspeth Cumber) and Binge (Maisie Jenkinson), who, while squawking about JLS tickets, manage to land firmly on the endearing side of “chav”.

Carroll’s production tempers haunting sentimentality with crass reality checks. “I think it’s a tree with crap in it,” pronounces best man Nob (Liam Steward-George) as he attempts to prise Paul away from it in time for his wedding. Steward-George does well to tease something comically endearing out of some of the most banal and prosaic lines that straight-talking Nob has to offer.

The continuously building piano-playing from Ben Holder throughout the spoken sections makes it clear that the magic of the “Dummy Tree” is continually burgeoning, and that the curious connections that it has been used to forge are coming closer to the surface. Coming to the intimate space of the Burton Taylor Studio in 3rd week, this production promises something truly unique that deserves to be seen.

-Rosalind Stone