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The Garden

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

In a windowless high-rise built where the Sun no longer shines, the
entire world seems to be closing in on Jane and Mac, the listless
couple at the centre of this short opera penned by real life partners,
playwright Zinnie Harris and composer John Harris. The concrete
landscape they've created for Jane and Mac is grey and empty, their
lives barren of feeling as each struggles with their own private ennui.

When a small weed appears beneath the lino, having seemingly grown up
through breeze-block like some Ballardian bean-stalk, it's flash of
green suggests a life beyond the four walls for them both. When what
turns out to be an apple tree keeps growing back, refusing to be
pruned, its persistence awakens in Jane and Mac a desire which
transcends beyond the numbness, even as they self-medicate their way to
oblivion,

Commissioned and presented by the Aberdeen-based Sound festival of new
music and adapted from Zinnie Harris' short play, this musical version
begins with a low electronic hum that builds to a series of electric
keyboard motifs underscoring Alan McHugh and Pauline Knowles'
part-sung, part-spoken exchanges.

There's an underlying sadness to the performances in Zinnie Harris'
production, which takes
urban alienation to its logically dystopian limit before taking a leap
into more idyllic Ray Bradbury territory where the couple can breathe.
Knowles and McHugh play off each other beautifully, their voices
plaintive, their expressions pained, their hopes ultimately dashed.

At forty minutes, the Harris' story can stand alongside anything from
the late twentieth century new wave of ecologically-inclined short-form
science-fiction, even as it hints of fresh Edens to come.


The Herald, January 27th 2014



ends

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