Writers: Ameera Conrad and Kathleen Stephens
Director: Kathleen Stephens
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman
A gentle yet challenging solo show from performer-activist Ameera Conrad, Tales from the Garden is a play about being a young woman, and navigating a world where women’s bodies are not their own.
Set in both her native South Africa and in London, Conrad’s likeable character shares stories of her upbringing and of her Omi, who always tended a beautiful rose garden. Imagery is strong in this piece, with innocence, chastity and de-flowering all represented in the blossoms she loves. The planting and sewing of the flower box that becomes the focal point of the story is done so lovingly by Conrad, and ensures the darker parts of the piece have a fitting platform.
The change from light-hearted tales of childhood to a traumatic present is thoughtfully and skilfully done. There are clues in the form of physical action that contrasts with the storytelling, and a sense that Conrad’s character is trying to convince herself of a different reality. Questions about consent are intermingled with blame and shame, fear and love, and being raised in a world that continues to make women the target of violence and aggression. When a teacher intones the old adage “men can’t help themselves”, she reflects on how damaging that message is, and how victims can be isolated by trauma. She explores the difficulties of starting new relationships, or of telling loved ones about a sexual assault, when we still live in a world that asks what a victim was wearing.
A timely and touching piece of theatre that is well performed and directed, Tales from the Garden is brave, heartfelt and empowering.
Runs until 25 August 2019 | Image: Contributed