FRINGEWORLD 2018 | Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden | 4 Stars

Review | Laura Money

Enter Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden but do not be afraid! Anna Thomson takes you on a journey of eco-feminism, cultural relationships, nature vs nurture, queer politics, and physical comedy all through her masterful, absurdist clowning. The garden is already there when the audience files in – there’s a charming Victorian style outdoor table setting, a cornucopia of fresh produce, and a strangely plastic looking vine covering rubbish bags.

Then the rubbish pile begins to move.

Thomson emerges as the affable guide to the garden. Dressed in a Biggles-style pilot’s hat and dusty jacket, she emerges carrying her trusty spoon in her top pocket, and starts scavenging around the bin. This character is unique and wonderful, with her shrill and comical giggle and her knowing tone, she tells the story of the secret poison garden with reverence and knowing. She guides you through the story like a latter day Tony Robinson from Fat Tulip’s Garden, slowly and carefully articulating every element.

There are so many references to fairy-tales and children’s stories here – cautionary tales like Little Red Riding Hood, princess tales like Snow White, tales of homecoming like Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland – yet Thomson takes back autonomy on behalf of the damsels. She obliterates the stupidity of turning to woodland creatures for comfort – let’s be honest, all those birds hovering around, that’s some Hitchcock shit right there.

As Madame Nightshade herself, Thomson presents a series of clowning vignettes, all silent and all slightly dangerous. From simulating Snow White’s foray into Samurai fighting, to literally weaponising her garden to defend it to the hilt, Thomson does all of this with a sweet, ironic little smile. There’s audience participation, but don’t worry, it’s gentle (ish) and plenty of food for thought. The poison garden itself is a surreal microcosm of femininity – it’s a literal breadbasket, but it is owned by Madame Nightshade and only Madame Nightshade is allowed control. In culture, women are often aligned with nature – Thomson is just solidifying that alliance.

Moving away from the Nightshade character, Thomson’s lovable scamp returns to teach us about the power of secrets, stories, and sustainability. She blurs reality with revulsion, forcing the audience to contemplate the connection between what goes in and what comes out of our bodies. This show is unashamedly messy! It’s brazenly confronting. It’s intelligently inviting. In short, Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden has a lot to say and a very effective way of saying it.

WHEN: 20 – 24 February 2018 | 9:00pm

WHERE: The Blue Room Theatre | Fringe Central | Northbridge

INFO: Tickets $21 – $26 | Duration 60 mins | Suitable 15+ | Contains gun violence | Contains food | THEATRE







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