Venue: Pleasance Courtyard
I have to admit that when I first read about Lucy Grace’s Garden while deciding what to watch at the Fringe, its plot didn’t exactly have me racing to the box office. I’d be lying if I said shows about a woman rescuing a potted plant from her workplace and “cultivat[ing] her own personal wilderness” have ever been high on my to-see list. Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised after watching Garden – it’s definitely one of the best one-person shows I’ve ever seen.
Described by Grace as a version of her own life, Garden is an endearing blend of comedy and pathos which sees a socially awkward office worker (Lucy) use nature as a coping mechanism for anxiety and isolation. A large part of the show’s charm is that you never quite know where it’s going – one minute, Lucy’s telling the audience about an embarrassing encounter with her co-workers in the office and then the next minute, she’s adopting a pigeon called Colin who takes residence on the sofa in her flat. Garden even seems as if it’s about to delve into magical realism at one point as Lucy forges a deep connection with the natural world. It’s one of those shows which is annoyingly hard to summarise in a way that makes it sound appealing but is absolutely riveting nonetheless.
Grace is an absolute joy to watch. She remains animated, engaging and refreshingly candid throughout the show. There’s something about the way she presents herself that’s comfortingly familiar, as if she’s an old friend telling you a story over a cup of tea. There’s also a realness about her that makes her very easy to relate to, whether she’s struggling to decipher meaningless buzzwords during an intense job interview, recovering from an ill-judged joke at a social gathering, or dancing awkwardly to S Club 7’s ‘Reach For The Stars’ when she’s put on hold. Every situation she recounts is a believable one and the childlike frailty she possesses makes it hard not to feel sorry for her. This vulnerability makes it equally difficult not to share in her unadulterated glee when she finds her own bit of blue sky in a rare moment of happiness.
However, Lucy is not the only character Grace is capable of playing. Her portrayal of the sardonic Tanya, another office worker, provides an excellent foil to Lucy’s shyness and, alongside the depiction of other characters, really demonstrates Grace’s versatility as an actress.
Grace also does a fantastic job at transporting the audience to the different locations mentioned during the show despite a very limited stage space. She is aided by some cleverly concealed props – box files open out to reveal foliage which help shape Lucy’s ‘garden’, a ladder is transformed into a bed and a booklet about pigeons is pulled out of a filing cabinet then hung up so Lucy can educate her feathered friend classroom-style.
In short, Garden is a charmingly understated show that’s all too easy to overlook while flicking through the Fringe programme. However, give it a chance and you’ll be rewarded with a moving performance that possesses the sort of authenticity you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.