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Inveresk Lodge Gardens, Musselburgh
4 stars
The joy of gardening, by all accounts, comes with the sense of 
purposeful distraction it brings alongside the appeal of growing things 
in a way that remains both practical and creative. Much the same can be 
said for Dora and Maddy, the two sisters in Jules Horne’s deliciously 
brutal play, performed outdoors in Nutshell’s touring revival of the 
company’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe hit.

As the audience are welcomed into one of East Lothian’s most charming 
nooks with tea and scones, there’s an initial village fete feel to Kate 
Nelson’s production. This is accentuated by actors Nicola Jo Cully and 
Gowan Calder’s chatty pre-show introduction that segues into the show 
itself. At first the siblings are, in Maddy’s words, “young and 
immortal,” burying their teddy-bears and launching dismembered Sindy 
dolls from aloft the shed roof as the garden becomes den, playground 
and safe haven from the grown-up world. The falls which go on to define 
each sister at opposite ends of the play, however, become Eden-like 
metaphors as much as life-threateningly physical.

Horne’s richly-textured and really rather lovely script is full of 
little symbolic touches like this that are brought to life in a vivid 
piece of dramatised story-telling shot through with a dark, whip-smart 
wit that digs beyond the play’s emotional top-soil. As Maddy and Dora 
blossom into increasingly troubled womanhood, Cully and Calder occupy 
their characters with a sense of wide-eyed grotesquerie that still 
manages to retain a sense of broken humanity. The effect is of a 
green-fingered Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, but with warmth 
tempering the day to day venom beneath  in a loving study of sibling 
rivalry in extremis.

The Herald, September 10th 2012

ends


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