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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Garden, theatre review

Published in the Guardian

The Garden

Oran Mor, Glasgow
3 out of 5

I have been at the theatre when an audience member collapsed, but never have I seen two keel over at once. Such was the unfortunate, not to say unlikely, scene at Oran Mor for this lunchtime performance, bringing Zinnie Harris's two-hander to a premature end. Having consulted the script, I realise we missed only the final few lines of a domestic drama that, like many plays in these apocalyptic times, is about the impossibility of a future.

Mac, played by Sean Scanlan, works for a scientific sub-committee investigating, we presume, the climate upheaval that has sent temperatures soaring. Stuck at home, his wife, Jane (Anne Lacey), has a vision of an apple tree growing through the lino of their fifth-floor apartment, for which she tries not to blame her depressive illness.

In cheerier times, the tree might have been a metaphor for green shoots of recovery, but in this desolate place, it is a symbol of humanity's destructive power. A kitchen floor in the sweltering American heat is no place for a new garden of Eden. Jane takes the scissors to the unwelcome plant, leaving it more forlorn than the tree in Waiting for Godot, before cutting it down altogether.

This is a barren planet incapable of regeneration. Like the lost child Jane cannot speak of, the tree's death rules out the possibility of rebirth, still less redemption. A political remedy is no more likely, and even Mac admits the committee's report is an "exercise, not a solution". No wonder the couple retreat so eagerly into the inertia of alcohol and anti-depressants, a haven from the literal and metaphorical madness of their lives.

Such bleakness is dispiriting, but Harris, who also directs, writes with a crisp, elliptical style and sense of political engagement that temporarily keeps the fatalism at bay.

Ends today. Box office: 0844 477 1000. Then touring.

© Mark Fisher

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