Wed 5th – Mon 31st August 2015


Laurie Atkinson

at 11:00 on 8th Aug 2015



Garden is Lucy Grace's first full length piece of writing for performance, but its Fringe premiere at the Pleasance Below displays a confidence and sophistication worthy of a seasoned one-man show. A simple idea of office worker-gone-wild blossoms into a hilarious and often poignant portrayal of a London commuter unable to conform to 'The Grand Scheme of Things' as prescribed by career assessment forms.

Kooky commuter turned eco-warrior may seem a familiar, even tired theme. Leaving her home with pockets full of soil, Lucy's rapid descent into crowd-abusing insanity looms large. But Lucy is neither mad nor dangerous. Grace has created a truly sympathetic character who draws us intractably into her dracaena-pilfering, pigeon-report-producing world. She jitters, she glistens with sweat, she gives a performance that is on edge, but which will not relent until Lucy has articulated some personal significance beyond printing, scanning and shredding.

Equally refreshing is the innovative use of props and staging, for which Design and Stage Manager Charlie Young deserves credit. We watch enraptured as the set, like Lucy, returns to seed. Cascades of blue sequins, a balloon in a filing case - oddities that may initially appear as unnecessary gimmicks in this largely minimalist performance - come to serve as rich visual symbols in a story that thrives on its dashes of poetry.

But undoubtedly, the show's greatest recommendation is the charisma with which Grace delivers this poetry. Perhaps the audience had a few frustrated Londoners of its own, but Grace's subtle contemporary references and fantastic range of facial expression certainly merited the uncontrollable laughter and rapturous applause it received. Garden is a show that makes a powerful grasp towards a place "inside of my world, not outside of theirs", but which delightfully wraps its message in the absurdity of the 9 to 5 routine: just how long does lying face first in a flowerbed remain socially acceptable?

Perhaps the only disappointment of this intelligent piece is its resolution. Standing on a rooftop, pigeon in hand, Grace's story is in danger of fulfilling the insanity stereotype. But this is only a minor detraction from a show that deserves an hour of any Fringe-goers time. Skies are blue and the Garden beckons, though I wouldn't recommend putting soil in your coffee.


Abigail Smith

at 12:09 on 8th Aug 2015



Garden opened with a sparse setting of a filing cabinet, ladder, some compost, and a silent woman whose face was obscured by the plant she held. As the show progressed, the woman behind this plant was revealed; a city worker (Lucy Grace), boxed into commuter life, who steals the office pot plant from her manager (who is bent on chopping its leaves off). Grace becomes increasingly detached from her monotonous daily routine, and sets about cultivating a garden in her 24th floor flat. The stage literally blooms in front of us, ivy popping out of drawers, pebbles across the floor, and plants overwhelming the small space. The set was certainly one of the strongest aspects of the show, with each surprise addition to the set moving the plot along, in what was a surreal, hilarious, and disconcerting show.

The comic elements were also some of the show’s best. Despite being a one-person performance, Grace played an army of characters; from the bitter and plant-chopping Tanya (who quits to write an erotic novel), to the HR rep Hillary, who spoke solely (and almost incomprehensibly) in office jargon. These characters battled with Lucy herself, who narrated her own life with perfect comic timing and just the right amount of awkwardness to be endearing; even as she manically threw soil into the office cafetière, Grace manages to thoroughly charm the audience.

That’s not to say that the sadder moments are lost; more that the show lets them creep up on you, and you’re suddenly left feeling a bit awkward for laughing. One such moment is when Lucy slams the window shut to trap her newly adopted pet pigeon (who’s name is Colin in case you’re wondering). As the imaginary bird smacks into the glass, there’s an uncomfortable realisation that Lucy seems to be doing more harm than good in her ‘gardening’. It feels like we’re the ones allowing her to shut off herself from the world, ignoring her job and even family, just to lay in a pile of soil and listen to YouTube recordings of a rainforest.

The performance was not without its flaws. The ending felt a little corny and slightly reductive of the story we’d just watched. I also felt some gags overran, such as an (initially hilarious) S-Club 7 moment, and Grace’s speech misunderstanding “the grand scheme of things”.

Despite these, Grace’s performance was wonderful; alone on stage for the full hour, her honest story-telling was captivating. As both I, and the cheering audience can vouch for, this show should not be missed.


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