Following an award-winning stretch at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe Festival with The Way the City Ate the Stars, Melbourne-based storyteller and comedian Wil Greenway returns to the north with his most recent production: These Trees the Autumn Leaves Alone.
The world shatters, slowly. Edges of the room pull away from each-other like divergent tectonic plates, and open a gap wide enough for fiction to rise through it like magma and mantle. Ernie – our unlikely hero, emerges from thin air. Living in an onerous silence, his present splits and tunnels inside his past to reveal a significant memory: the moment he met Olive.
Barefoot, with a bun and beard, Greenway introduces Kathryn Langshaw and Will Galloway. The pair sit on the periphery of this story, and in an acoustic harmony with the spoken word, they shape Olive. The green-eyed, freckled beauty sparks a chain of events spun by an Autumn storm that sweeps across mainland Australia, and the audience sit with their noses pressed against the fable, gradually slipping through time. Rain explodes, and Greenway begins to bend space, casting words into the air above him. Moments of meta-theatricality work to erase the commonplace classroom further, and soon everything that is imagined becomes real.
A cat mews from across the universe. Teeth are on edge, hair is on end. This is something deeper than happiness. Images recollect – Ernie is eight again, then in his teens, and then in his thirties. Greenway folds his own past into the story of our protagonist, and nostalgia burns bliss and despair on the same bonfire. Eyes become wet from the smog thickened by the humidity of May-time romance, and Autumnal Australia stretches and snaps to fill this magic hour.
Greenway is a heavenly wordsmith. This is what true theatre is – the unbridled ability to tell stories, to capture a place other than our own, and to share it. He does not need pyrotechnic accessories, but only his words, and our ears. Humour and the tale of a tender friendship bring the room together before flying first-class back to Edinburgh in August. Young forever, Greenway’s story-machine lands safely amid the smells of popcorn and cider, leaving its passengers blinking away the sun spots of Melbourne still hiding on the inside of their eyelids.
All of this is true. One only need buy a ticket to see it for themselves.
These Trees the Autumn Leaves Alone is playing at the Underbelly Med Quad until August 27. For more information and tickets, see www.tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/wil-greenway-these-trees-the-autumn-leaves-alone