The Olive Tree, theSpace @ Surgeon's Hall, Review

Jessica Forrest, the magical fairy under the Olive Tree
Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Sugar Butties
Jessica Forrest (writer, director)
Jessica Forrest
Running time

While studying English and Drama at Manchester University, 18 year old Jessica Forrest was spotted in the street by a TV producer and invited to audition for a children’s show. This early success led to her playing Leanne Holiday in the soap opera, Hollyoaks, and other popular television programmes.

Sitting on stage beneath a decorative branch of an olive tree, she plays herself in this poetic memoir to relate her happy go lucky, haphazard journey from Manchester to Foligno, Umbria, Italy.  With enchanting imagery, she paints a picture of an exotic landscape of the mind: the buzz of a wasp, the shade of a Banyan Tree far away on the Indian Ocean to the sound of tweeting birds.

Change is inevitable in our lives, she surmises, something suddenly ending, but “you are constant.”  Keen to hear about our life changing experiences, she gives out tiny pieces of paper to write down our secrets to hang on her tree. 

Here are humorous anecdotes of the challenging time working as a nanny, ‘looking after other people’s children’, her love of Leo from a baby to four years old as a surrogate mother (this rather long-winded narrative could be trimmed). There's a fancy dress party where she wears a white wedding dress and the wings of an angel, romantic encounters, and tales of endearing, enduring friendships - including a stray cat. The irony of leaving a relationship with a Christian man only to run away to the saintly town of Assisi, but where she quickly learns, with much amusement, that Ciao means both Hello and Goodbye.

In life, comes the inevitable but also sudden ending in death, when “the soul floats to a beautiful place.”

Why should we care about her romantic rite of passage of change, the experience of heartbreak and break up?.  Is it all true?  This is her personal story - but it is also theatre.   Jessica gives a masterclass in storytelling, her facial expression shifting from joy to despair, happy smiles to tears in her eyes with heartfelt emotion.  

Nostalgic, lyrical, dreamlike, this is a minimalist and magical journey through love and loss, finding her way to the sunny olive groves of Umbria. Like the classic Italian aperitivo this is as sharp, bittersweet and delicious as a perfectly shaken Negroni.  Saluti, Jessica!


15 – 20 August @ 11:55

(run ended)