Opera Scotland

Garden 2015Sound

Read more about the opera Garden

Back in 2009, John and Zinnie Harris produced an arresting little music drama as their contribution to Scottish Opera's 5:15 series of 'Operas Made in Scotland'. Since Death of a Scientist they have produced a couple more stage works, so it was interesting and rewarding to see how their skills have developed in the intervening period.

The Garden is a two-hander from 2012, featuring Mac and Jane, husband and wife. The publicity material featured Adam and Eve, leading us perhaps to expect some form of Edenesque allegory.

The original Aberdeen shows were played in a tenement flat - a secret location to which the audience was steered. The same thing happens here - the capacity audience of thirty assembled in the Traverse foyer before being led (the long way) round the block 'up The Garden path' to the Lyceum's rehearsal rooms in Grindlay Street Court (an alley on the south side of Grindlay Street).

The performance is intimate, indeed claustrophobic, with seats round three sides of a basic kitchen layout. Composer John Harris was at an electronic keyboard behind the audience. What developed was an intense and haunting little drama. The circumstances are reminiscent of Orwell or Huxley - ie 1984 cum Brave New World. Mac and Jane live in a pokey, hot and airless flat in a concrete jungle. Very little food available, and that is all tinned. No plants survive in this wilderness. Mac goes to work for a Mr Big by the name of Manning.

Jane, confined to the flat, becomes intrigued by a bump that has appeared in the kitchen floor. Rolling the vinyl back, the couple discover a seedling has germinated. They assume it has no chance of survival and pull it out. Some time later, while Mac is away, another plant appears, big enough to be identified as an apple sapling. She roots it out rather than have Mac think her mad. Mac returns with the news that he has been offered more work on some anonymous committee producing population reports - worth a bottle of wine to celebrate, but otherwise the future really doesn't offer much hope.

The work is composed as accompanied speech developing seamlessly into speech song - a few moments of lyricism, but all very restrained. It was all beautifully done with a sense of total commitment by Alan McHugh and Pauline Knowles, both reputable actors revealing well-schooled singing voices.

Engaging, even haunting and altogether superior to the usual run of Fringe operatic shows.

Performance Cast


Alan McHugh


Pauline Knowles

Performance DatesGarden 2015

Map List

Traverse Theatre | Edinburgh

18 Aug, 15.00 18 Aug, 18.00 19 Aug, 15.00 19 Aug, 18.00 20 Aug, 15.00 20 Aug, 18.00 21 Aug, 15.00 21 Aug, 18.00 22 Aug, 15.00 22 Aug, 18.00 23 Aug, 15.00 23 Aug, 18.00 25 Aug, 15.00 25 Aug, 18.00 26 Aug, 15.00 26 Aug, 18.00 27 Aug, 15.00 27 Aug, 18.00 28 Aug, 15.00 28 Aug, 18.00 29 Aug, 15.00 29 Aug, 18.00 30 Aug, 15.00 30 Aug, 18.00

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