The Two Trees written and performed by Daniel Giverin is a one man show based on the writings of W.B. Yeats and if you are a fan of his poetry then I would recommend you see this show as there are plenty of opportunities to hear his work throughout the play.
The stage is simply set, infused with the colour red and throughout the piece four candles are lit, to me representing North, South, East and West but I am not sure if that is the case. We begin with Daniel talking about Yeats as a narrator of the piece and we hear of Yeats great desire to write about spiritual realities rather than political realities and how he was more concerned with the intellectual future of Ireland as opposed to the cause of Ireland which was not in line with his fellow artists.
However, the main crux of the story centres around his obsession with a woman named Maud Gonne, an ardent nationalist who he became friends with and eventually fell in love with and we follow him over the years as he follows her and attempts to win her over.
There are some nice touches throughout the play, Giverin recites the poetry very well, he plays the violin at the beginning, a device I would have liked to have seen a bit more throughout the whole play and he also adds in some nice moments of humour but the piece overall felt a bit muddled. He clearly loves the poetry of Yeats and has tried to build a play around certain poems but I found him trying to focus on too much, the story of Maud along with the story of the Abbey Theatre was fascinating but was a lot of information to take in and sometimes I had a hard time following all the different trains of thoughts.
At the beginning of the play he makes a choice to go from the narrator to becoming Yeats and suddenly everything is in the first person, then towards the end he switches back. Unfortunately there didn’t seem to me much of a difference between the two characters and I wasn’t sure of the reason as to why he switched when he did, or indeed why he switched at all. I think the piece would have had a stronger impact if he had stayed as the character of Yeats throughout.
The anger he shows as Yeats, when he is told the truth about Maud’s affair seems to come a little out of nowhere and I think if he had stayed in the character the whole way through he could have built up those nuances, especially as when he plays the shy, awkward Yeats I found it really engaging as if I were in his living room listening to him re-tell his story.
I did find there were a lot of unnecessary lighting changes and sound cues and I think most of the effects could have been achieved with the candles or his violin. It was in these moments where I was taken out of the story too much and I feel that if he had focused on Yeats telling his love story, interspersed with his poetry I would have been more involved.
He says at one point that Maud tells him he makes beautiful poetry out of his apparent unhappiness and that the world should thank her for not marrying him. I find this aspect the most fascinating because it is still so relevant in today’s culture. So much art is born out of a person’s misery either from unrequited love, the quest for fame and fortune or a tough life and those stories are told through music, art or poetry and they are usually the ones that affects us the most.
There is so much to Yeat’s life that it must have been hard to distill it to an hour and 15 minutes but there is the kernel of something really wonderful here. I feel with a bit of editing, some technical assistance and a firmer decision about character versus narrator this could be a perfect one hour show that tells a very relevant story of a man who contributed so much to the world of poetry and art.
To this day, this Yeat’s line pulls at my heart strings, ‘I have spread my dreams under your feet, tread softly because you tread on my dreams’ and now, thanks to Mr Giverin, I have a better understanding of where it comes from.
– The Two Trees is playing at The Red Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen Street East) until November 20th.
– Performances are 7.30pm & 2pm on Sunday.
– Ticket prices range from $15 – $20
– To reserve call 416 845 9411 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Daniel Giverin