Tree Boy tells a deceptively simple story: set in 1960’s South Africa, an eleven year old boy’s mother dies, his father is unable to cope with the loss and turns to alcohol, they move from a farming area to an industrial town and hope is born again through the example of the life cycle of trees. Voila! But the script is something of a banyan tree, spreading its branches into related territory and sending its many roots into the earth.
Within a simple narrative frame, the piece evokes the nature of a journey; journey through time, in a time, through relationships, identity, age, growth, loss and healing.
In a dreamscape of shadows, reflections, light and shade, the story is told through layers: images are conjured, developed, reduced; deep emotions are played out and the tragi-comedy ends on a sombre note of contained anticipation of joy.
Arthur Sprout takes up a position as postman in ‘Rykdom’ – a town located between fact and fantasy, an industrial hub, where man and nature are at odds and where monstrous constructs and gases are fast overpowering the population – and as he retreats further into the paralysis of liquor and memory, young Benjamin Sprout is left alone.
The boy seeks solace in an over-grown forest on the fringes of the town. It is in this forest where Ben discovers a mystical old man: the veiled, compulsive gardener named Archibald Drupe. With Drupe, Ben discovers a new world: one in which story and hope sow revolutionary seeds of change in the boy. This change will have a profound effect on the corrupt town and its people and, more crucially, on the relationship between young Ben and his estranged father.