[Theatre: SA, World Premiere]
Wed 11 Oct 2023
Emily Steel’s new script is deceptively mundane, as she distils the big questions of life down into everyday language, grounded in the soil of a community garden. The wit and charm of this play lie in between the lines, and in the misunderstandings that abound with a clash of cultures.
Our assumptions and judgements from first impressions and appearances are exposed and challenged. It is uniquely Australian in being able to capture the intricacies of multiculturalism in a two-handed production. The trauma and fears carried by the refugee from his homeland in Africa are shown rather than related, so that we are invited to gauge their depths. He is now working as a care giver in aged care, and enjoying the ‘paradise’ here.
Humour bubbles along beneath the tensions, as they each struggle with their own flaws to maintain their own little patch of power. The bitchiness, in-fighting and constant personal conflicts that can be part of every group are weaved in well.
With a clever script device, the audience all become a party to the community garden. At the heart of this performance is the question: ‘How much do we really care for those we love?’ The simplicity of a subsistence life means that family bonds remain strong. The fractured form of caring of our ‘western’ character leads to putting the community first, rather than those closest, the immediate family. The motives for this are more complex than it seems, asking more questions about our perceptions of self-worth, and our core values.
The script incorporates the plants and insects into the plot to create multi-layered levels of meaning. The fragile nature of the new growth in the garden mirrors their budding but superficial relationship. With suspicion taking seed like a weed, can trust ever develop?
The set design does a wonderful job of creating a credible, living world within the confines of a theatre stage – there’s real water flowing through the hose! Corey McMahon has done a fine job of directing, giving full rein to the talents of the excellent actors, Lizzie Hay and Rashedi Edward. But beyond the security fencing, the garden’s very existence is threatened by forces larger than this little corner of the community.
A Theatre Republic production in association with the Adelaide Festival Centre.
The Garden continues at the Space Theatre at various times until Sat 14 October.
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