Last Wednesday (2nd March), Millman Street Resource Centre members experienced an atmospheric performance at the New Diorama Theatre near Regents Park. The show, The Garden, was performed by Spare Tyre, a leading participatory arts charity in the UK, and directed by Arti Prasher.
It was a rainy, blustery day, but on arrival members were given a breather. Before the show began, in the theatre foyer, members were treated to a musical foretaste of the main attraction, as Spare Tyre’s Nick Cattermole played an Ngoni, a West African lute made from a giant pumpkin dried in the sun, goat skin, fishing line for strings and upholstery nails. “It’s very soothing,” Mulegetta said of the relaxing music. “It reminds me of home, the music of Ethiopia.”
Suitably refreshed, members were then ushered into the performance space and settled quietly as other audience members made their way to their seats. On a big screen, footage of a waterfall played amid ambient sounds of running water, birdsong and Nick again on the Ngoni. He would continue to play this and other instruments at various stages of the performance.
The Garden featured Fauvre Bickerstaffe and Yolande Bramble-Carter, who performed silently throughout. Initially, they mimed a series of scenes with the contents of a washing basket, did cat impressions and interacted with members of the audience, not least our own Olive, who stroked the ‘cat’ and, as is often the case when animals (even pretend ones) are involved, perked up noticeably.
There was a fair bit of activity with a rotary washing line the actors had assembled, putting different clothes and lace curtains on the rotary as the backdrop on screen changed. it was about then that this reporter finally tumbled that The Garden was a journey through the four seasons: we had begun in summer, and now autumn was coming.
The actors now played conkers with one another and also with audience members, then and got the crowd to throw them gently into small silver buckets – Steve managed to get one in. Onscreen, leaves began to yellow and the actors crunched leaves in red wellingtons, swept them up and put them in the baskets.
Winter followed, with inventive use of ‘icicles’ hung on the rotary, the actors donning ear muffs and scarves and simulated rubbing twigs together for firewood. They also roasted ‘chestnuts’ on a ‘fire’, and offered them to the crowd. Fred and Olive ate theirs, Mulegetta declined with a smile. Steve ate one, as did Pam, then Mulegetta demurred and had one after all. There was also simulated snow and other wintry embellishments, with some in the seats actually shivering.
Finally, spring returned to the garden. The backdrop screen changed to scudding clouds on increasingly bluer skies, soundtracked with cuckoos’ chirrups and other birdsong. The actors then tended a ‘garden’ of plants in wheelbarrows, silver buckets and plant pots, and wafted ‘butterflies’ on sticks. Also, they handed around ‘worms’ – which turned out to actually be worms: there was general amusement when a lady in the crowd tried to eat one. They handed round sprigs of rosemary- – pungent but nice – to Pam, Mulegetta and Steve. They also handed out sips of Pimms, as Nick projected scenes onto his hand and forearm with a device called a Genie.
The rotary washing line was finally folded up as sunflowers filled the screen, before fading to a sunset. The actors went to each audience member and thanked them for coming. Our members were all smiles.
Fred thought the show was “Very good! Very entertaining, like a silent movie.” He also “liked the soundtrack and scenery.”
“It was alright,” Mulegetta said. “Not particularly interesting,” he added before bursting out laughing. We can take it that he did enjoy the experience, as did all of our members.
Pam also enjoyed the show. “It was interesting,” she said. I liked the music – it was very restful.”
Holborn Community Association would like to thank our new friends at Spare Tyre for allowing our members to experience The Garden absolutely free of charge.
The Garden is a quite extraordinary show; very atmospheric and relaxing. This reporter’s feeble descriptive powers cannot do it justice. To see Spare Tyre’s own film of the performance, please go to: http://www.sparetyre.org.
Report by Notes Smudger