Could be good… The Battle of the TreesDate: 20 May 2012
The Battle of the Trees, purportedly written by the mythic poet Taliesin, has baffled scholars for hundreds of years but one Welsh artist has dedicated three years of her life to decoding this strange and little-known story. Following an American tour, UK audiences will see the results of her labours for the first time at Brighton Fringe this May.
Christine Cooper hails from West Wales, among the most legend-ridden Celtic landscapes in the country and, in the footsteps of Tolkien, the one-time professor of Celtic literature at Leeds University found The Battle of the Trees in a dusty book while she was a student there:
‘Hidden in the library basement, I discovered cracked and yellowed editions of the Four ancient books of Wales. Among them, a peculiar poem called “Kat Godeu, The Battle of the Trees,” says Christine. “I became obsessed with it. I read every academic study I could find on it, which was not many. I knew I had to bring this poem to life somehow. Cooper immersed herself in the world of trees. She learned to identify them and gathered stories about them, coming to understand something of their emotional importance for us.
Her performance opens not in the distant past of the poem, but in October 1987, in the middle of the Great Storm which cost Britain 15 million trees, changing our landscape forever. Cooper weaves together five tales connected through the poem, from the uncovering of a ritual tree circle in Norfolk, to the passion of the writer Robert Graves, to the summoning of the boy Merlin to come to Britain's aid. Christine is also an award-winning folk musician, and her singing and fiddle playing are threaded throughout.
‘Initially I took the performance on tour in the USA and Canada. Thankfully it scored rave reviews, and I am delighted to announce its UK debut in Brighton this May,’ adds Christine. Leslie Berman of the New York Times called the performance “The weekend’s standout… impossible to top.”
Cooper’s work is part of a resurgence in the art of performance storytelling up and down the country. ‘Unlike mass TV entertainment, a story is a very personal gift for an audience, relying on the magic of imagination,’ says Christine, who also runs a monthly storytelling night in Brighton.
The Battle of the Trees can be seen on 22 May, for one night only, at 7.00pm (doors open at 6.30) at The Latest Music Bar, Brighton.
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