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REVIEW: The Garden

Review by Markus Hamence (Wednesday 11 October 2023 performance)

Theatre Republic have delivered us a beautiful gem with Award-winning playwright Emily Steel’s The Garden.

A stunning piece of ‘world premiere’ theatre that draws you into it’s simple but very engaging and well structured story.

“Evelyn is the volunteer coordinator of a community garden. She’s a single mum with a lot on her plate. Adam is a refugee on a humanitarian visa. He wanders into the garden one day with the hope of becoming their newest member”…

It is from there the story telling and drama starts to unfold before us as we see both Evelyn and Adam slowly reveal themselves, their frustrations and their insecurities. The character development is cleverly done and the depth we see in the people depicted is colourful. This piece of theatre has a quiet confidence and maturity in it’s approach. A joy to experience.

Evelyn is played to perfection by Elizabeth Hay – the character has a lot going on in her life and Elizabeth dances around with the role bringing the slightly unhinged and uptight Evelyn to life with an admirable quality. From the moment the play commences, her quirky nature and eager to please attitude is easy to gravitate towards immediately and you know it’s going to be an enjoyable time with her.

Rashidi Edward’s Adam is the quiet one but again with a lot going on below the surface, he keeps it on the inside and it bubbles away and we audience can see it slowly rise to the surface. Rashidi is accomplished, he knows his character well and bit by bit we see what makes Adam tick. He’s handsome, young and intriguing, not the ‘typical garden community type’. Eveylyn sees this in him and watching the two actors flirt with this is amusing.

The pizza party scene is particularly done well, both awkward and cringey as Evelyn does her best to make Adam feel a part of the party and cannot wait to introduce her new exciting friend to the garden community. Both characters share a sense of dry humour and throw it at each other back and forward with much enjoyment, it is obvious both actors feed of each other extremely well. The play is very well cast.

Both actors give great performances and make the two characters instantly likeable. It is extremely enjoyable watching their relationship for over the course of the garden’s seasons.

There is of course a third character in the play and it is the garden. It is a living, breathing entity on stage and you find your eyes darting all over it exploring and wondering what each season will bring for this community garden space. It masterfully been put to task to hold the story together but also allow the characters to shine. It is the perfect backdrop to the story evolvement.

The corn also must get an honourable mention. While the play is called ‘The Garden’, it could well have also been titled ‘How To Grow Corn In A Community Garden’. The thrill you get from watching the corn reach it’s full potential is almost a metaphor for the show in many ways. It is an intrinsic and subliminal part of the story line.

Then of course we have the sound of nature, the birds chirping and the hum of the bees, it all adds a special treatment to the play and you can’t help but feel you are in patch of garden somewhere on a spring’s day.

Congratulations to Director Corey McMahon on a wonderful achievement with this piece of of work. Theatre Republic are doing solid theatre and I cannot wait for their next offering.

Featuring: Rashidi Edward and Elizabeth Hay
Director: Corey McMahon
Production Designer: Meg Wilson
Lighting Designer: Chris Petridis
Composer: Jason Sweeney
Producer: Manda Flett

The Garden: 11-14 October 2023 at Adelaide Festival Centre’s Space Theatre.

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