The Elephant in the Garden really suits the intimate space of Bristol Old Vic’s Studio, Alison Reid telling us Lizzie’s story about the realities of conflict in World War II-torn Dresden, confiding to us how life played out for her and her family before, during and after that magnificent Baroque city was bombed into annihilation by British and US forces on her sixteenth birthday in January 1945.
Adapted from the novel by Michael Morpurgo and directed by Simon Reade, The Elephant in the Garden includes those Morpurgo trademarks of war and animals, which could never been complete without his almost unmatchable understanding of the human condition. This is a story about coming of age, connections, family, hope and love. Always love.
Reid’s delivery is strong as she relays her journey to us as an older Lizzie, living during the destruction of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Just like her elephant Marlene, we stick with Lizzie every inch of the way, liking her character and wishing her a good final outcome, even though the life she once had is gone forever.
Our second trip to see this particular show, I somehow preferred this performance (same cast, same production team, different venue) and I think that may be to do with the fact that Celeste is more than a year older (9) and, this time, she stared at the stage non-stop, seeming to drink in the whole play. Here’s her review but please beware the spoilers:
If you’re looking for an entertaining history lesson, told from the perspective of a German girl, which shows us that everyone is affected deeply by war, no matter our nationality, regardless of which ‘side’ we find ourselves on, then this is for you. The Elephant in the Garden is a masterclass in acknowledging the fundamental sameness in our apparent differences. No border please; we’re all human. And, yes, the age recommendation of 9+ is spot on!
The Elephant in the Garden shows at Bristol Old Vic until Saturday 13th February