The Garden of Delight

Aug 1 2018 | By More

★★★☆☆     Scenic

Duddingston Kirk Manse Gardens (Venue 121): Tue 31 July – Sun 19 Aug 2018
Review by Thom Dibdin

Making perfect use of one the Fringe’s most idyllic venues, Theatre Alba’s The Garden of Delights is a promenade tale with a strong environmental twist for younger children.

Simple – sometimes too simple – though the tale might be, you can’t help but feel an added punch of relevance from the beautiful setting of Dr Neil’s Garden, tucked under Arthurs Seat and tumbling down the hill to Duddingston Loch, protected from the elements by its exotic trees.

Alan Ireby and Hannah Peace. Pic: Thom Dibdin

Alan Ireby and Hannah Peace. Pic: Thom Dibdin

This has a real old-school charm to it with its Tumshie the jester, played by Robert Williamson. He wanders around strumming his guitar and trouping his audience through the gardens – a magical portal to a charmed land of past times, peopled by faerie folk, both good and bad.

Williamson is a master of this kind of audience interaction, coping easily with more boisterous comments from its younger members and providing a wryly raised eyebrow for their parents.

The finding of the faerie folk is naturally done, too, thanks largely to strong performances from Hannah Peace – making her professional debut as the fairy Heather Belle. She has a charming singing voice and creates a believable sprite whose world is under dreadful threat from the dreaded Boggarts.

The elements are all here for a strong piece of work as the forces of good take on the forces of evil.

Thoroughly nasty

On evil’s side, Frank Skelly is thoroughly nasty Bogie Boggart – so nasty in appearance that children at the younger end of the target age range of four to ten might become upset.

Hannah Peace and Hazel Murray. Pic: Thom Dibdin

He has a properly selfish attitude, too, in his desire to kill all the green things which are causing his skin to blister and itch. But he has just enough of the hint of the pantomime baddy to ensure that he is never threatening enough to bring real fear.

On the side of good, Alan Ireby’s Welsh accented Onnietree is a magnificent creation – and the choice of a tree as a character a nice judgement call in terms of being able to portray the death of nature. His return as a water kelpie, wet from Duddingston Loch, is equally strong. He’s decidedly grumpy because of the plastic debris which is clogging up the loch.

Such tales need a strong and believable performer in the over-arching role. Hazel Murray is certainly that actor as The Lady in Green – crucially she has a strong enough singing voice to overcome the elements in performing John Sampson’s easily accessible songs.

Despite its charm, there is just a little too much simplicity to Clunie Mackenzie’s plot. Her script itself, with its strong Scots accent, is well done and her inter-twining of the music into the plot feels natural.

However the use of the senses is a gateway to solving Tumshie and Belle’s quest to save nature feels as if it is trying to hard to be educational. And the resolution with the expected triumph of good over evil feels too lightly won, particularly with its direct parallels with today’s environmental disasters.

This is an entertaining production however, one which makes excellent use of its surroundings and provides a small transport of delight away from the frenetic pace of the Fringe.

Running time: One Hour
Duddingston Kirk Manse Gardens (Venue 121), Old Church Lane, EH15 3PX.
Tuesday 31 July – Sunday 19 Aug 2018 (not Wed 17 – Fri 19)
Daily at 2pm.
Book tickets on the Fringe website:
Theatre Alba website:
Twitter: @TheatreAlba.
Facebook: @TheatreAlba.
NB: The number 42 bus runs past the venue. Details here:

The Cast of The Garden of Delight. Pic: Thom Dibdin

The Cast of The Garden of Delight. Pic: Thom Dibdin


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