The Tulip Tree- The Love Story of J Enoch Powell

The Tulip Tree is a very intelligent piece of theatre that crams a lot of subtlety into a short period of time.

This is an intelligently put together play which does an excellent job of telling a simple story with a great deal of depth and well selected detail.

It focuses on a period very early in the life of Enoch Powell, the infamous Tory politician particularly known for his “rivers of blood” speech. Shortly prior to his first appointment as a cabinet minister, he fell in love with a young upper class woman, and the play follows his attempts to woo her.

The play deals sensitively with the nuances of class. Powell is shown to be something of an outsider not just because he never wielded a weapon during the war (he was, of course, in intelligence), but also because, for example, he never boarded at private school. He is presented throughout as an outsider in a thousand hard to place ways. This, combined with a highly nuanced performance from Alexander Shenton as Powell, allows us to sympathise with him even while we don't quite trust him. He is pretty creepy, but steers well clear of being entirely unlikable. At times, for example, when he recites some of his poetry, he is positively endearing.

Most of the characters feel more fleshed out and real than one might reasonably expect from a one hour play. Particularly worthy of note is the excellent Peter Wicks as Campion. He brings a real humility to his character, who acts as a kind of foil for Powell. Sue Parker-Nutley also makes her limited stage time really count, giving a very enjoyable performance as the love interest's mother. A few of the other characters, however, do end up feeling a bit functional, which is particularly noticeable in such a naturalistic play.

The central piece of symbolism is that of the tulip tree, a tree which does not flower for the first twenty years of its life. This verges on the edge of being a bit heavy handed, but since it is such a short play, it never has time to feel overdone. In general, this is an intelligently put together play which does an excellent job of telling a simple story with a great deal of depth and well selected detail.

Reviews by Grace Knight

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The Blurb

Enoch Powell is regarded alongside Margaret Thatcher as the most divisive figure in modern British politics. But the event that defined the second half of his life had nothing to do with politics; it was a love affair that Powell, even in his eighties, referred to as the turning point of his life. He chose the symbol for his love: a tulip tree. This award-winning play is described as ‘fascinating insight into one of Britain`s most controversial figures ... it stayed with me long after' (Meera Syal).