The Birch Tree Speaks, Pitlochry Festival Theatre
4.0Overall Score

Do you ever feel like nature is speaking to you? Directly to you. It’s sending you a message in the wind, something mystical that you can’t quite explain. And have you ever truly listened?

In The Birch Tree Speaks, the Lady of the Woods, also known as the birch tree, has a pressing message to deliver to the human who is fortuitously caught in her presence. She seeks understanding and connection, and offers her advice to help this human to continue on their pensive path in life.

Written by Timberlake Wertenbaker and directed by Elizabeth Newman, The Birch Tree Speaks is the latest addition to the Shades of Tay collection, and is presented by Pitlochry Festival Theatre. This project celebrates the relationship between art and nature in Scotland, and specifically Perthshire, whilst aiming to engage communities, artists and audiences far and wide.

From the beginning the audience’s role in this piece is clear – we are the human, awakening to find ourselves dazed and confused in the arms of a tree. Within the filming of the piece, we get a thrillingly close appreciation and admiration of every branch, roof and leaf. These are images we usually take for granted, however, Newman has focused on the detail and beauty of this birch tree whilst following the individuals’ experience.

Wertenbaker’s script verges slightly into the absurd as the birch tree is personified with a wise, comforting, and yet slightly sassy personality. The Lady of the Woods demands attention and to be heard. She is caring, but also proud and unapologetic. The writing is naturally informative about the strength and function of the birch tree, and carefully observes the nature of humanity. The story reaches a brief confrontation where the tone becomes darker as the Lady of the Woods quite rightly accuses humans of being the biggest threat to trees.

Jesse Fox delivers this text with directness and serenity. It’s a very calming and entrancing monologue to listen to; one that possesses meditative and reflective qualities.

The Birch Tree Speaks offers life-affirming advice on finding strength in our roots, binding together with a community, and the security that the wonder of time can bring. This piece asks the audience to learn from trees and nature, to be more in tune with the world but also ourselves. On a final note the Lady of the Woods reminds us to “Listen, always.” But will you take her up on that advice?

The Birch Tree Speaks is now streaming on YouTube. For more information, visit Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s website.