Bleeding the humour vein

STRONG: Paula Arundell in The Bleeding Tree. (Brett Boardman)

By Luke Voogt

Victorian writer Angus Cerini could be lurking in the audience as his “grotesquely funny” play begins with a gunshot in the night.

Geelong will be the last stop on The Bleeding Tree’s latest tour since Cerini watched it premiere in Sydney in 2014.

“I’m almost certainly going to be there,” he told the Indy recently.

“It might be the last time this ever happens.”

The play’s longevity continued to amaze Cerini.

“It’s not often enough that Australian plays get a second or third life. Usually they’ll have a season and that’s it,” he said.

“It’s really as simple as the fact it’s got a really simple, cracking story underneath it.”

Cerini took two and a half years and 20 drafts to write the play, before watching with pride from the audience as director Lee Lewis brought it to life.

“It was pretty much the same as what Geelong will see,“ he said.

“It’s always pretty nerve wracking handing your work over but Lee’s honoured the words I’ve written and brought her own sensibility to it.”

The play begins with a gunshot in a dirt-dry town in rural Australia, as three women frantically try to dispose the body of their former tormentor.

“The minute the play starts we’re in the action,” Cerini said.

“The murder has happened at 11.55pm and we start the play at 12am.”

Through the trio’s mockery the audience discovers the man they murdered, because of a plea for help that “went unanswered“.

“We shouldn’t like these three women for what they’ve done but we can’t help but like them,” Cerini said.“On one hand we shouldn’t be going, ‘Yay murder!’ But on the other hand you’re thinking, ‘Yay – they’ve got rid of the asshole.’

“There’s a delicious aspect to the way these three women overcome their circumstances. They’re not victims at all – they’re winning.

“If we were in their position we’d do exactly the same thing.”

The Bleeding Tree features prolific Australian actresses Brenna Harding, Sophie Ross and Paula Arundell, who has been with the play since it began.

The cast play several characters, and animals, without costume changes or leaving the stage, Cerini said.

“They’ve got their work cut out for them,” he said.

“But (they get) better and better each time.”

Cerini said he had never experienced domestic violence but helping with a piece about the “scars women carry” inspired him.

He wrote the first 20 pages of The Bleeding Tree “in a rush in response to that.”

“I didn’t want these women to be victims,” he said. “I wanted them to be powerful.”

Cerini planned hold a “Q and A” when The Bleeding Tree comes to Geelong Performing Arts Centre from 23 to 26 May.

He encouraged locals make a night of it and grab a meal in town before or after the show.

“Come to the theatre! Treat yourself!” he said.

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