Mariah Gale on The Bleeding Tree at Southwark Playhouse

A gripping revenge drama about complicity, secrecy and resilience from acclaimed Australian playwright Angus Cerini. The UK premiere of Australian playwright, Angus Cerini’s The Bleeding Tree opened last week at Southwark Playhouse, directed by Sophie Drake and starring Elizabeth Dulau, Mariah Gale and Alexandra Jensen. Ahead of opening, we caught up with Gale to find out more about the production.

Q&A with Mariah Gale

What can you tell us about The Bleeding Tree?

It’s set in rural Australia. It’s about three women and some interlopers – their neighbours. On one level it contains domestic violence. On another, it’s very funny. The writing is on point and the characters are clever. Importantly, it leaves unacceptable behaviours with those who enact them, not with those to whom it happens.

What was it that attracted you to the production?

It’s the biggest acting challenge of my career so far. And it’s fun. The other actresses, Elizabeth Dulau and Alexandra Jensen, are a pleasure and a privilege to work alongside.

How have you approached playing Mum in the show?

Working on Mum I’m striving first and foremost to try to serve Angus Cerini, the writer; Sophie Drake, the director; and Iskandar Sharazuddin, our movement director, as much as I can. They’re all very exacting masters and I’ve learnt so much from all three. I’m trying to approach Mum as I feel Angus has realised her on the page – not as a romanticised picture of female victimhood who becomes ‘beautiful because of her pain’ and needs rescuing (a sanitised narrative which has been perpetuated for years), but as someone who has become very, very good at acting her way through things because she’s had to navigate unacceptable behaviours for so many years and has no other way out.

What’s it like to be performing at Southwark Playhouse?

My first job out of drama school was at Southwark. Southwark is a place where new stuff gets done and risks are taken. I’m very excited to come back there – although of course I’m a firm believer that magical moments in theatre can happen anywhere: in a lauded venue with money, in a village hall, or in a school assembly.

Is there anything you hope audiences take away from the show?

It will be very individual what you come away with. There will be barely anyone who doesn’t chime in some way with this material, I think. I hope it will be galvanising and politicised. And funny. Overtly, I hope.

The Bleeding Tree is at Southwark Playhouse until 22 June 2024