The Garden – A new site-specific play by Helena Thompson
Outdoors in Little Wormwood Scrubs, August 2008
Directed by Rachel Grunwald
Designed by Lili Barcroft
Technical Direction by Benjamin Esterson
Assistant Director Nnenna Samson
Cast: Samuel Collings, Ryan Saunders, Nicola Stuart-Hill Helena add the other three boys’ names
In the not-too distant future, London has been destroyed and a man and woman make their home in a secluded garden. Outside, the world is brutal, oil-hungry and disintegrating. When the seductive Tempter turns up, will they manage to keep their little world intact?
Audience members are invited to enter their barricaded world and experience the fear and exhilaration first-hand.
Plays International said:
The story plays out against a Mad Max style oil crisis (with obvious climate change overtones) involving Josh and Laura, two lovers who tend the garden created by Laura’s deceased father. Their intimate world is violently interrupted by the Tempter, a rock n roll villain from the chaos outside who is more human than he first seems.
Helena Thompson’s script displays a clear love of language, mixing timeless lyrical passages with pop culture references to folk music and reality TV…
The performance area is fenced off from the park’s practicing golfers and dogs ensuring Lili Barcroft’s meticulously constructed set envelopes the audience and allows its collective imagination to flow…
Ryan Saunders and Nicola Stuart-Hill play the couple with energy and feeling but it is Samuel Collings as the Tempter who holds the audience focus with a performance drawing on Jagger, Vicious and Paul Nicholas in the film Tommy. Rachel Grunwald’s direction is painstaking and faultless – the invading youths’ violent climax in particular is choreographed to a tee – while the production design requires no suspension of disbelief and the sound, dry ice and lighting are slick, on point and never overdone.
Weather permitting; this is an example of site-specific theatre at its most accessible.
Total Theatre said:
This outdoor site-specific production is set in the not too distant future, where young lovers Josh and Laura tend the garden of Laura’s dead father. Into their secluded life comes The Tempter, a swaggering, rakish villain, from the brutal oil hungry world outside.
Cast and audience are fenced off from the general public, and the play’s success rests on its ability to sell this grubby enclosure as a haven and the beautiful fragrant park beyond as the chaotic badlands of the tale. (In a tragic case of life imitating art, a stabbing near original venue Sunbeam Gardens forced the move to Little Wormwood Scrubs).
The sure handed competence of the production — Rachel Grunwald’s tight direction, Lili Barcroft’s impressive set, and the slick use of lighting and sound — carry the viewer through some of the narrative’s more opaque moments. Ryan Saunders and Nicola Stuart-Hill (who has some difficult lines) are energetic and emotionally engaging but it is Samuel Collings’ Tempter who is most resonant in his role.
The action is up close and violent, yet the Garden’s pleasant setting makes for a strangely relaxing and hypnotic evening. If you’re unfamiliar with (or unconvinced by) site-specific theatre, this is a good place to start.