The Raun Tree
The Raun Tree is the brainchild of Dom Coyote and its collaboration between some really outstanding musicians. There’s Dom Coyote himself, BAFTA winning song writer Emily Barker, Nat Butler and Adrian Acolatse (the rhythm section for Mercury Prize Winner Speech Debelle). Plus, a unique set design has been developed by renowned theatre designer Michael Vale. We wanted to know more about The Raun Tree, so we asked Dom a few questions…
The Raun Tree is described as somewhere between a gig and a piece of theatre. Can you tell us how you’ve combined the elements of music, storytelling and theatre and what the audience can expect to see?
I have always played in bands and I have always made theatre. For as long as I can remember. I used to see them as quite separate parts of my life. I spent several brilliant years working with Kneehigh theatre. I sang and performed and played in the band and it shaped the work I make as a lead artist. When I finished a 7 month run of Don Jon in 2009 as singer and storyteller, Battersea Arts Centre invited me to apply for a grant for musician/theatre makers. I applied and was successful. This was the turning point when I realised I could combine the two. I could write stories and turn them into songs, create landscapes through music, and turn a stage full of instruments into strange worlds.
The Raun Tree is fundamentally a gig, but one which tells a story. I am the frontman of the band, but I’m also narrator, using song more than spoken word, but really speaking to the audience so that hopefully they follow the whole tale. The music also tells the story, from the choices we make, the dynamics and melodies, we support the story and create the landscape. The other thing that is vital to the show is the stage set, designed by the brilliant designer/director, Michael Vale. Wooden ladders, lightbulbs and breeze blocks are positioned in such a way that they become a completely new place for musicians to perform. Everything works together to let the audience’s imagination run away with them.
Is the show based on a specific fairytale?
No, the story comes from an early childhood memory of mine. When I was a little boy, I used to climb the tree in my back garden and read until the sun went down. I used to day dream that the tree might swallow me up and inside there would be a strange world waiting for me. The Raun Tree is that fantasy retold and reinvented. But it’s a distorted reflection from me as an adult, looking back at that memory. It is an ode to childhood, a lament for innocence and nostalgia.
Who created the piece? Was this devised between all of the group?
The piece was written and devised by myself, designed and directed by Michael and then we arranged all the music as a band. I spent two years making the work, first through some scratches at BAC, where I worked with various actors and musicians, trying different ideas out. I also spent hours on end in the little attic room at BAC that you can only reach through the rafters. I would make huge loops of harmonies with my voice and a loop station and then loop up lots of instruments. Over this I would freestyle lyrics and songs and record all of this. That’s how the story started to emerge, through improvisation and freestyle.
If you could describe in a nutshell why people should see this show, what would you say?
It’s very hard to answer this myself, so I’m going to let Emma Rice of Kneehigh Theatre do that instead!
“Dom Coyote knocks my socks off! With the voice of a fallen, urban angel he takes us to heaven and hell. With an extraordinarily talented team this is a visceral song cycle for a new generation”. Emma Rice Kneehigh Theatre
Who will enjoy the Raun Tree?
Anyone who likes to be told a story, who can let their imagination run wild, and who loves music. It’s a show for adults and young people, old and young.