With city-centre space being the rare commodity it is during August, it’s unsurprising that most performers find themselves in black boxes made of unused office space and classrooms. In High Trees, however, it makes perfect sense. Two characters (played by Estella Smith and George Abbott) find themselves in a black, empty space, and are unable to remember their names, their past, or how they ended up there. With only snippets of audio to help them, they (and we) try to figure out what is going on.
The writing strays into dark territory, which becomes all the darker when the final plot twist is revealed. The dialogue leading up to that point is snappy and characterful, and both Smith and Abbott take their characters and make them their own. In fact, they are the main draw. Smith is crazed and spiteful in the role and is perfectly matched by Abbott’s wide-eyed fear not only of her, but seemingly of himself. It’s a credit to director and writer Angel Georgia Mae Lloyd that so little can be revealed and still make for such an engaging show.
It is a pity then that such a build-up should be so quickly resolved. The conclusion is clever and makes you re-evaluate everything that has come before it. However, it takes a matter of seconds for it to be revealed, which doesn’t give enough time for the audience to absorb it, or for any further development. It feels like a waste of a good premise, but that doesn’t derail the tension and character development that came before it. Three stars.