One day Lucy rescues the abused office pot plant from her job at Insignia Asset Management and her world alters. Inside her flat on the 24th floor, she starts to plant, cultivate and nurture her own personal wilderness.
Written and performed by Lucy Grace, Garden tells of one city dweller’s journey into the natural world. It pairs urban loneliness and an inherent desire to connect with the natural world, exploring an attempt to find a bigger picture than a life packed into small boxes. Pleasance Courtyard (Below) from 5th August at 3.30pm.
What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Lucy Grace: This piece started many years ago with just an image in my head of a garden inside a small high rise flat. I thought I would end up pursuing it as a type of immersive installation.
Then a couple of years later I toured America with an acting job and was exposed to some of the most amazing vast pieces of nature: the Grand Canyon, Yellow Stone Park, mountains, lakes. In these spaces, life was wondrous, but also seemed to make simple sense, humans are tiny and insignificant in this huge Universe that we don’t completely understand and finding that empowering and life affirming rather than frightening and demoralising, is called “The Cosmic Perspective”.
Following my return to London I took up working in various offices again and began to lose focus of why I was doing that and began to see our typical urban 9 – 5 office based lives through a surreal lens that made less and less sense. The antidote to all that was the experiences I had had in those wild places in America. That’s when I found the character that I would place within the garden in the high rise flat.
Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
This is my first solo piece. My first project being involved in all elements of putting on a show and setting up my identity as a theatre maker.
Edinburgh is the most exciting place to launch yourself, it is an all or nothing experience. And I really wanted to hit the ground running and challenge myself. And to do this being surrounded by other amazing companies and performers and industry people is great. And it’s a one off opportunity to get your work to the wide range of audience members who visit the fringe from all over the world.
What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
My show is wide reaching in terms of feelings provoked. At its core is a tragic humour. There are lots of laughs from the off kilter way my character views the every day. But there is also an inherent sadness which runs in tandem with that humour: that this skewed but open and imaginative view of existence leaves her isolated and desperate to find ways of communicating with others.
There are also elements of the grotesque and slightly creepy alongside a vulnerability. My favourite shows are solo shows because when you watch one performer fill a room with story, emotions and a desire to communicate from one person directly to an audience, it can be one of the most effecting types of performance. It unites people in the strength of the individual and that at our core we are all vulnerable but we are in that experience together!
The Dramaturgy Questions
How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
It is what knits together the piece and makes it a total world, experience and language rather than it being disparate sections pulled together. That the elements e,g. Set, costume, delivery are bouncing off and adding to each other and that particular strands or themes in the text are being highlighted and pulled out.
In terms of the writing, I have had dramaturgical support from Barney Norris from Up In Arms Theatre who really pushed me to get to the crux of what the piece was about and ensure that the writing was adding up to what I intended and that the audience was being given the best chance to experience that.
What particular traditions and influences would you acknowledge on your work - have any particular artists, or genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition?
I will be honest, in making my first piece of theatre, I have had a big influence and it isn’t a theatre practitioner. It is the film director Wes Anderson. His fantastical, surreal visuals, the framing of his work that always lets you know that you are watching a film but you get still get lost in the characters. The fact that you know you aren’t watching the real world but a dreamt up one slightly removed from everyday life; and also his actors’ timings and the rhythm of the writing is so precise and beats are given to moments which make a huge deal out of tiny gestures and movements, drawing significance to the mundane.
Nothing is by accident. Every prop, gesture, line, costume choice, music piece stands alone as a little bit of art in itself with meaning and beauty and is there for a reason, nothing is superfluous. That is quite a lot to achieve, I don’t know if I have but it is what I have aimed for and what I will go on aiming for in future work. That after the show, people would want to look closer at each individual piece of set or prop and be interested in it alone and as part of a whole. I think this is also the same for lines. Although my piece is definitely conversational, not heightened for the most part in its delivery, I think I have got to a point now where each line is there for a reason, nothing is superfluous. I would love for there to be sentences that pop into an audience’s head the next day.
To be honest, I could go on about Wes Anderson for a few more paragraphs! This precise, surreal abstract view of reality that acknowledges we are watching a piece of art, never trying to make the audience forget that this is a construct. It isn’t hiding the fact that this is a view of the world though someone’s eyes and I find that very beautiful.
And in that vein, I read first person novels Lolita and American Psycho in the lead up to writing Garden and those uncensored unravellings of someone’s experience of the world, where you can relate to some aspects of their narrative then find a point of view baffling or exposed to a new way of seeing something, is really exciting.
Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
In my next piece which is in its early stages, I am planning on working from a basis of devising and playing in the rehearsal room. That is in reaction to the process for Garden which was much more traditional. Writing the script first then going into rehearsal then rewriting then more rehearsal. I think as this is my first piece that felt like the most effective way of working, to make sure I had a strong basis in a script to start creating from.
In the writing I know the feel of the piece and I start to write moments, interactions and observations from the character’s point of view, some of which end up not being used and then from those moments start structuring and plot developing.
In developing the performance aspect of the piece I begin with actioning my script. I love dynamic, quick changing performances that take you on a roller-coaster in just one paragraph.
I also aim to achieve atmospheres, trying to envelope the audience in the story. That is the main benefit of theatre over film, the ability to share that intangible sense of energy and atmosphere with your audience as one in the same room. To explore this, I engage in exercises by Michael Chekhov who developed the physical gesture technique.
I get a lot out of working from the outwards in as an actor so go through the script using Laban efforts.
Then I look at the different worlds in play and from this I developed the visual and movement style.
I decided not to have a director for this piece as I had a totality of performance in my head that I wanted to achieve and felt that I would give it a go with me in the driving seat alone. However I could not have done this without the support of collaborators such as Barney Norris in the writing and Matthew Runham (of Leicester Curve) in the rehearsal room who push me to think outside the box and give me feedback and open up new avenues to explore. And these ideas from Matthew or Barney or my sound designer Thomas
What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
I wrote this show because I feel its themes are things that a lot of people experience, think about, feel regularly due to the way we live now. Social isolation, burn out, office culture and finding meaning in an increasingly corporate world disconnected from nature and our part in it. I created a solo show because I think there is power in showing vulnerability, it is affirming, we are all vulnerable.
My aim is to unite people in feeling vulnerability and valuing the way we individually see the world, I am not writing in a vacuum. Writing and performing a solo piece, the only other humans for you to interact with and bounce off are in the audience. My aim is for an audience to feel and think and connect with me and consider their own thoughts and feelings that the piece might bring up. I have learnt from my previews that your performance changes depending on the audience, the atmosphere of the room that night and individuals’ reactions. As a performer you are bouncing off the audience as much as hopefully they are engaged with you. There is no work without an audience.