From the Joanna Lumley-fronted ‘garden bridge’ over the Thames to studies into the relationship between green spaces and mental health, the natural world is often seen as the antidote to our built-up urban lives. Written and performed by Lucy Grace, Garden—debuting at the Fringe—sees shy office-worker Lucy rescue a pot plant and gradually cultivate her own personal wilderness in her top-floor flat.
It's a fascinating idea, and Grace beautifully captures the monotony and petty politics of office life that so baffles and confuses Lucy – who we first meet hiding in the stationary cupboard. These scenes have a Bridget Jones-style vividness and comic lightness that keeps the show bouncing along. It's also inventively staged, with Grace pulling out balloons and flowers as Lucy retreats first into her imagination and then into her flat-turned-garden.
And yet there's a tension in the writing between the veneer of Lucy's quirkiness and the darker implications of her obsessive behaviour – a sense not of liberation but of breakdown in her compulsion to create a new world for herself. We get flashes of this in her anxiety about the miles of flesh in a packed tube train, but the play always pulls back to safer ground.
The result is a show that, while charming and funny, sometimes seems to be in conflict with itself over how deep it's willing to explore what drives Lucy to reject the city outside her front door.