Garden O' Delight

Mon 29th July – Sun 11th August 2013

reviews

Costanza Bertoni

at 01:06 on 3rd Aug 2013

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Once upon a time for Theatre Alba’s Garden O’Delight takes an ecological spin; a magical land must be saved from the evil boggarts that threaten to destroy the natural peace of fairies, bears and water kelpies. So, led by Tumshie the jester, you and your children will be whooshed away on an adventure seeking a green happily ever after.

Set in the beautiful Duddingston Kirk Manse Gardens, it is an ideal afternoon spent with your children outdoors. With a wide range of interactive fun, the magic of this adventure is not only brought to you by the scenic venue, but also the cast, which with big smiles and unstoppable energy, present this imagined reality in a way which is almost believable, even in the eyes of adults.

Don’t believe it? I didn’t think I would. But with a strong cast at hand, most notably Robert Williamson as Tumshie the jester, whose impish character was impeccable and always appropriate for his audience, and Catriona Fraser as Heather Belle the spritely fairy, who in all ways perfectly resembled a fairy out of a childhood picture book. With these figures, and of course the wonderfully versatile Alan Ireby, the nasty little boggarts that destroy the greenery that surrounds us didn’t, and don’t seem that far away at all.

Despite being firmly rooted in a topic that today has almost become cliched in both message, and its portrayal, Garden O’Delight can most adeptly be described in one word: imaginative. As a children’s show it is obviously something not for teenagers, or young adults, however, although simplistic in nature, the vivacity of the costumes, and setting, strolling around all the nooks and crannies of the Duddingston Kirk Manse Garden, the visual presentation was skillfully chosen, and therefore incredibly visually pleasing. There could not have been a better stage for both demonstrating nature at its best, and appealing to young pairs of eyes that thrive on having colours and sounds up close.

If you are looking for a show that will not only keep your children entertained for a little while, but also gently open their eyes to the issues of the wider world, I think the paths of the Duddingston Kirk Manse Gardens are your answer. Children, be prepared to immerse yourself into a real-life fairytale. Parents, adults, or those of you who simply want to forget being grown-ups for a bit, the Garden O’Delight is an open book.

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James Cetkovski

at 09:14 on 3rd Aug 2013

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It’s difficult to know what sort of standard to apply to children’s shows. I think I would have really enjoyed Garden O’Delight if I were a child. Ideally there would have been more children in the audience so I could have confirmed this impression, but sadly there were just two (along with five adults, reviewers included), and they seemed rather understandably intimidated by the fact that they had to take pretty much all of the cast’s attention.

'Garden O’Delight', you see, is an interactive show, one in which the audience is led around the beautiful (if somewhat remote) Duddingston Kirk Manse Garden by a jester called Tumshie (Robert Williamson) and called upon to assist various characters as they attempt to save their magical land from a destructive Boggart. On this particular day the most remarkable element of the production may well have been the cast’s unflagging enthusiasm in the face of so aged and unresponsive an audience. Williamson’s performance was especially assured; he did the bulk of the talking and bore most of the responsibility for the play’s continuity. I confess an initial slight hesitation when looking at his programme bio—in his photo he looks slightly unhinged, and his previous credits include films with names like 'The Taxidermist' and 'Skeletons'. Perhaps not the expected resumé for a children’s entertainer, but in this case the unexpected proved just fine.

The other star of the production was its setting. Walking from scene to scene precludes the possibility of fidgety children (and adults) and the staging often took clever advantage of the garden’s natural features. The best example was the entrance of the “water kelpie,” for which the audience was led to the edge of the loch that the garden overlooks as the kelpie clamoured out of the reedy shallows and issued a great spout of water from his mouth. This would have delighted me when I was a child, though the two youngsters in today’s audience remained poker-faced, no doubt fearing that any sign of enthusiasm would encourage the cast to involve them further in the proceedings.

Apart from occasional stumbles in line recollection the show’s professionalism was high. The script would have benefited from stronger and more frequent injections of humour and variety; it tended towards the repetitive and the didactic, though not as much as the program—likely the worst part of the operation—gave me to expect. “We show . . . how some very stupid and ignorant people who do not understand how important all nature is . . . can ruin everything,” the programme declares righteously, and I braced myself for a shrill lecture, but in truth the play’s pitch was usually well-moderated.

If the weather’s all right and your kids don’t mind joining in, 'Garden O’Delight' repays a trek out to Duddingston.

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