A tale of love and coming of age, An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo, is more than a piece of theatre reliving an incredible story of yesteryear and has much relevance today with its tales of war, refugees and displaced people.
Beautifully adapted and directed for the stage by Simon Reade, Morpurgo’s story tells the story of Lizzie, her mother (Mutti) and an elephant from the zoo, Marlene (named after the German actress and singer Marlene Dietrich, who Mutti idolises) fleeing the Dresden firebombing in the Second World War. Escaping the Allies from the West and the Russians from the East, this extraordinary trio of refugees meet a Canadian RAF navigator, Peter, who has bailed out of his airplane and who Lizzy falls in love with and ultimately marries; a school choir, the Cherub Boys, on the run from the Nazis; and American army tanks appearing over the horizon.
In this solo show, Alison Reid as Lizzie, gives a commanding and believable performance as she brings each of the characters to life, from the young tempestuous teenager Lizzie, to capturing Mutti’s love for the music of Marlene Dietrich to Peter the RAF Officer. With a simple set, limited props and the skillful use of music, which helps to set the era, Reid’s storytelling is done with nothing more than a change in body language, tone and accent, and even her plodding elephant moves are convincing enough to help the audience suspend belief and draw them into the plot as the story develops.
Thought-provoking, engaging and utterly plausible, An Elephant in the Garden combines simplicity with beautiful storytelling, which will have you captivated – its final scene moved me to goosebumps with its conclusion that our protagonists will live happily ever after.