Review: An Elephant In The Garden by the Barn Theatre, Cirencester (Online)

Writer: Michael Morpurgo

Adapter & Director: Simon Reade

The Barn are no strangers to the work of Michael Morpurgo and An Elephant In The Garden is one of two more of his stories they will be sharing with everyone on their stage. This uplifting peice of storytelling manages to work with a challenging time in history and create a relatable, heartening story where love, friendship and optimism conquers all

Filmed on the Barn stage, the first thing you’ll notice is just how clever Max Johns’ stage design is, by crafting a section of the destroyed Berlin Wall to symbolise the silhouette of Marlene, an elephant rescued from certain death, standing strong and bold throughout. This clever imagery continues with the circus being present on stage, from the festoon lights to the bunting and the circle design on the floor. It all helps centre the production through the eyes of Lizzie retelling this self defining story of her life.

The adaptation by Simon Reade is slick and at moments gripping. However it doesn’t shy away from the damaging and brutal impact of hatred and extreme nationalism and the cross fire impacts it has on animals and people, a common theme in other Monpurgo classics . It is against that backdrop you see the determination of Lizzie and her mother to save their friend and flee from their destroyed home.

Reade’s direction translates well on camera, focusing on the intimate nature of the performance while it’s wide angles compliments the vivid and brilliant storytelling of Alison Reid who embodies each of the characters and expertly conveys pace and tension.

Monpurgo’s compelling story has been carefully adapted for the stage. With little else other the an actor and some juggling props, yet you become swooped up in the adventure, the characters and the new bonds that are formed. This grounded peice of captured theatre doesn’t shy away from their being dark times, but even during them, there’s a ray of hope when you take control of your own destiny and focus on love, family and friendship.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This production was gifted in exchange for a review. Rating based on a £13.50 cost which means you get unlimited access to the performance for 24 hours after the start time. For more info on this value for money rating please visit here

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