The Garden Sound Festival

I’m not sure how to describe The Garden – it is an interesting short dramatic work (only 35 minutes long) which features some sung dialogue and music but it’s not quite what I would have considered to be an opera. The piece was commissioned in 2012 for Scotland’s new music festival in Aberdeen, “sound”, and was written and directed by Zinnie Harris with music and sound by John Harris. There are two actors – Pauline Knowles and Alan McHugh, the latter I recognised as one of the stars of “Limmy” and this role could not be more of a contrast to his role in that show.

It is set in a bleak future where the world has run out of resources and a couple are trying to carry on in intolerable circumstances – the wife sits at home in their stifling apartment while the husband endures the daily commuter hell working on a project which hopes to find a solution to the global problem. Their marriage is suffering under the strain. One day they are amazed to find what they think is a weed growing under the lino, nothing grows any more so how did it get there? The husband uproots it and takes it to work in the hope of gaining kudos and acceptance onto “the subcommittee”. Then the wife finds the plant has grown back, it is in fact an apple tree which she recognises from a picture in a book. Somehow life in the form of the tree has found a way back, giving hope for the future. But, fearing she is going mad, the woman destroys the tree and any hope they may have had. The husband finds that the project he is working on is a sham and there is no solution. They find solace in each other and take the only way out they can find.

This all sounds quite depressing but it is actually riveting stuff. We feel the heat and the stress and share their pain. The music is haunting and once your ear becomes attuned to the sung dialogue it seems very natural and right. Something quite different to add to your Fringe portfolio.

Irene Brownlee