"Judith Adams doesn't just write well-made plays, but pieces in which form and subject are perfectly matched" Lyn Gardner, The Guardian
"How to describe this bizarre and beautiful circus of a show, which provides an unforgettable landmark? - .a show about men and women and creation that manages to be deeply and thought-provokingly feminist, while never losing its brilliant streak of genial, engaging showmanship"
Joyce McMillan. Scotsman August 11th 2003
Robert Sharp, writer & dramaturg,59 Productions
In a small and half formed garden in the Scottish town of Pitlochry, Sweet Fanny Adams became incarnate in a human form. Playwright Judith Adams'creation Sweet Fanny Adams in Eden was performed by a troupe of actors assisted by costumes, a container of props, some sets, a sound system wired through the garden and an array of sophisticated digital technology. In two hours they told the stories of three women, three men, and a little girl dressed in red (who may have had wings). Audiences were delighted by the piece, which combined the fairy tales of their past with a distinctly 21st century sense of humour.
Sweet Fanny Adams was a promenade performance, with scenes taking place simultaneously across several locations around the seven-acre space. Despite this ambitious approach, reviews were favourable across the board. In common with the audience, the summary was always 'I've never seen anything like it!'
After the Stellar Quines Theatre Company commissioned Adams, she began researching the characters and the gardens upon which it was suggested the play should be based. She quickly found that there were myriad ideas and several interlinking themes, swimming around in her own head, and in the writings and words of her subjects. How to connect them in a way that made sense?
Collaborating with the design and multimedia production company Fifty Nine, Adams found that existing Internet authoring technology could be adapted to her needs. As the characters' words were typed into the computer, so too were the links between the scenes, and the core texts and themes to which they referred.
Many plays in Adams' earlier work are characterised by a certain antagonism to linearity, with the various characters, words and worlds overlapping and mirroring one-another, creating what may be described as a symphony of speech. Just like a musical composition, the individual instruments (in this case, human voices) are each a part of a greater whole. The Internet (or more specifically the HTML pages that may also be viewed on a computer without an online connection) provided a much better medium with which to generate this sort of writing. Overlapping and concurrent scenes may be presented just so. If a character repeats a refrain from an earlier scene, well, that scene with all its richness may be linked to its counterpart in the later acts.
Of course, once the non-linearity of the medium became apparent to the playwright, the proverbial floodgatesopened. If one were not constrained by notions of before-and-after or here-and-there (just like the fictional, fairy-tale characters, and just like our imaginations), why stay in one time, or one place? Presented with an entirely new method of writing plays, Judith Adams presented an entirely new type of play. Worlds collide. One word shoots a fountain of others in all directions. Embracing the medium, the playwright created scenes that did not require a place in a linear narrative.
Video was introduced as a means by which a character could physically exist in more than one place. Moreover, in this context of suppression and dominion, video also represented an alternative mental space.
By the time of the first rehearsal, 59 had compiled a series of hypothetical timelines, giving each actor (and the director) details of where they should be at any given time, what they should be doing, and where they should go next. A skeleton script, providing a temporal and contextual framework, was then output as a hard copy for each actor, and this formed the blueprint for each of their performances.
Remarkably, very little had to change when the piece was transposed from its virtual landscape to the very real one at the start of rehearsals, saving hours of rehearsal running time.
Throughout this process, 59 had worked closely with the director, Muriel Romanes, and the playwright on how the multimedia elements that Adams had scripted could best be realised.
These elements of film and video, with which the characters were set to interact, were fundamental to the world of the play, cutting across both time and space, echoing the past, manifesting the future, and becoming machines of control and surveillance at the disposal of the play's most power-hungry and manipulative character.
Extracts from hypertext website.
For this show, I wanted 4 overlapping/interweaving stories in no particular order, plus a free-wheeling child running where she liked through the unfinished garden to give each story another spin each time she was murdered, based on Little Red Riding Hood and the lives of gardeners Gertrude Jekyll and Vita Sackville West, painter Marianne North and Lily - an abused, dead child with a mission to resurrect and recreate Her Perfect Garden. The family audiences wandered at will, and even so, were able to construct their own satisfying narratives out of stories shuffled in modules, like a pack of cards, and linking design/visuals (set and video by 59). 59 were also my dramaturgs for this project, teaching me to create the simultaneous and non-linear script as hypertext modules, on line.
MODULE 05: OUR VERY OWN GARDEN
Our Very Own Garden. Our cultivated risk and experiment. Our Very Own Plot of Paradise.
HE DEMONSTRATES ON THE MAP
All conceivable amazements, from all parts of our great and conquered world are here: exotic blooms and beasts of burden, oriental geishas, Turks,hermaphrodites and other freaks, wonders terrible and marvellous, both great and small; diurnal lepidoptera (that's butterflies to you and me) in gay profusion, fire-eaters, water-sprites, wild gypsies, giants and ventriloquists and last but not least: the Invisible Girl.
BEAT. HE HAS OVERSTRETCHED HIMSELF
All manner of waxwork, clockwork, woodwork jumbled up together to make up a venue for Your Pleasures.
Boys and girls! (never forgetting Ladies and Gentlemen!): The Story Always Continues.
That is to say, in our magic garden, it Continues All-Ways.
Any way you wish to take, at the end of any path and on the way to any destination.
All around you, as you wander: Re-Creation! Preservation! Pacification! Vegetablisation! Ecology. Poetry. Romance. A Green Thought in a Green Shade.
Time, briefly, to wheel in our experts.
CONTINUE TO MODULE 06: LUTYENS
THE ARCHITECT COMES SHYLY FORWARD WITH A SUITCASE FULL OF PAPERS, STRING ETC. SHOWMAN PREPARES TO ILLUSTRATE.
Sparing us a moment of his most valuable time tonight, ladies and gentlemen: our Imperial Architect!
Um. I think. thank you...I think I think there's an Always Room..there's always a room...roo for a garden, somewhere. In our lives....space. I think. Somewhere. Everywhere, I think for a garden. In our lives. Otherwise. (COUGHS) Working. Too. Classes ... can aspire.... now. Many, many gardens can be..found, along main bus routes, even&and so forth..um..
PICTURE ON THE BUMPS (JEKYLL) MONITOR: THE DESIGN OF MUNSTEAD WOOD (pg39 in Gardens of a Golden Afternoon) THE PLAN IS SHAPED LIKE A HEART.
details matter. However small. They matter. (POINTS WITH A STICK) Careful with the..these steps. She might.. her eyesight isn't.. She doesn't see him.(GRINS) Ears like a stoat though
PALE IMAGE OF BUMPS ON SCREEN.THE HEART DESIGN TURNS RED.
Munstead..um. The owner matters. What she wants. Like a monastery. Not suitable for some. And not for a memorial, anyway. Her garden doesn't survive her.
BEAT. It's the shape.
HE TRACES THE HEART SHAPE
The shape of the space. House. And site. Together. Inside. Out. See. Where you stand. Looking out. There. That window....across to.. Where you look down the walkways. What you can see all the way. To that place. That place you can't reach. And want to.
I think there's always only one angle. Successful. Angle. Every point has&....
THERE IS A CHILD'S? CRY AROUND THE GARDEN. HE LOOKS ANXIOUSLY AT THE SHOWMAN
Well, now. Most interesting. A bird's-eye view. Now: can you describe for our clients the frontal aspect - the entrance seen as if we were to drive in to your design - the gateway, porch, front door etcetera?
The beginning of our story, if you will.
ON THE CORY (VITA) MONITOR: GLIMPSE OF A BIG CAR SWINGING UP A DRIVE.
Entrances and gateways. Driveways...(GIVES UP)
HE FUMBLES TO COLLECT HIS PAPERS, STRING AND STICKS. THEN HE LOOKS UP DEFIANTLY
Can't help it. I hate the motor car.
Thank you Edward.
A very talented young man who went far. In the end. Believe it or not. As far as China in fact.
With a little help from his friends.
ARCHITECT STOPS HIS RETREAT AND BLURTS FLUENTLY
I think Our Gardens are Reflections of our Souls.
Thank you. Ed.
Now then. What follows? We acquire the land, we commission the structure. Next: we must tend. We must cultivate. We must plant.
BUMPS (JEKYLL) ALONE 2
TEXT FOR TIMES WHEN BUMPS IS ALONE, ACCORDING TO TIMING REQUIREMENTS.
AN ALARM CLOCK RINGS
"Turn it on."
SHE TURNS THE RADIO ON. SHE IS BLIND. ALMOST.
SHOWMAN'S VOICE ON RADIO
Ladies and gentlemen: our Imperial Architect!
[ARCHITECT ON RADIO: SUDDENLY FLUENT
House and site, as in a vernacular building, should form an organic whole. Just as important is the relationship of house and garden: Even the position of a staircase window can materially affect a garden plan.]
BUMPS (TALKING TO RADIO)
Or: the garden plan may materially affect the position of a staircase window....
Several small gardens, like rooms. Extensions.]
..ever thought of THAT, Ned? Mister Lutyens? Eh?
Don't you ever wonder if we're on the outside, looking in – or the inside – looking out? Eh? Eh?
Gardens springing from the doors and windows of the house.]
Its a chicken and egg quandary: Nature before nurture; or vice versa?
The final test, I feel, is that not only are the gardens dictated in this way, but also every photograph one wants to take of them.
I have never, ever, been able to locate the source of the word quandary try as I might. Enquire as I do. Invent as I will.
As a visitor you have no choice in the end but to orientate yourself according to my design. Only the visitor who comes on foot counts, by the way. I hate the motor car.
He hates the motor car. (DEAF) What? What?
I will not design the Roman sweep they require in front of my doors. My houses are for people.
BUMPS TURNS THE RADIO OFF
BUMPS ALONE 2
Ned reminds me. Of my brother Fred. So naturally.I'm fond of him. He and I. Ned and me.
We take a journey once. By train. From Waverley to Berwick. Then across the sands to Lindisfarne.Ned brings a raven.Acquired from his dentist.It's a considerable anxiety on the journey.He spends the entire time of our stay at the castle making a cage for the blasted creature, while I discuss the garden with Mister Hudson.
I even go for a paddle in the sea.
I am not beautiful.
But I am useful.