My garden has been having a radical makeover during the last fortnight – all that unused travel money put to some use – with new planting which I hope takes into some account environmental concerns. The workers finally departed yesterday afternoon and I was finally able to enjoy the hum of bees and the chatter of the magpies in relative peace and quiet. In case you think you’ve wandered into an episode of “Nature Notes”, I only mention this to set in context my viewing of Nevergreen, my latest piece from the Living Record stable at Brighton Fringe. Sitting in a rocking chair with the sun setting and the plants taking on a different character in the twilight, there really could not have been a more appropriate way to experience this thoughtful and resonant film.
And this really is a film as opposed to a filmed staged play and I’ve only allowed it to sneak into my review portfolio because it was originally planned as a theatre piece. To be honest it’s probably better off for being in the medium it is – I’m sure that it would have had the potential to be a rather over worthy (and probably over wordy) lecture about environmentalism but the sumptuous location shooting deployed gives the whole enterprise an enticing quality which might have been largely absent on stage.
The central and indeed only figure here is Rachel Carson who was an environmentalist long before being an environmentalist was really a thing. She was a marine biologist although her writings covered a much broader spectrum and she is credited with kick starting the concern for ecology through her most famous book Silent Spring; among other things she was at the forefront of the move to get the pesticide DDT banned. In a series of softly delivered and almost dreamlike vignettes we are given some insight into Carson ‘s thoughts on the way chemicals were (are?) used with a lack of discrimination and the devastating effects this has had. We are also left in no doubt that the chemical companies mounted a counterattack trying to discredit her by trying to suggest that her research was flawed because of gender.
Katurah Morrish takes on the role of Carson slipping into character simply by donning a pair of glasses and altering her accent to a softly spoken American. Although there is some direct to camera work most of the performance is carried out as voiceovers while we are visually entranced by director Eloise Poulton’s dreamy filmed outdoor sequences on Hampstead Heath and both still and animated images of various flora and fauna are displayed. The language in Gus Mitchell’s script is quite dense and full of its own poetry and that of others. John Keat’s ballad La Belle Dame Sans Merci is heavily referenced particularly in its refrain which hints at environmental disaster “The sedge has withered from the lake/And no birds sing”. I did think I would like a more varied sense of pace and mood but gradually the film worked its charm and became quite captivating.
I think it’s a piece where you need to be in the right mood receptively; fortunately, yesterday evening I was following a manic day organising the final push to get my garden finished. I suppose if I’d been really environmentally conscious then perhaps I should have just let nature take its course and run wild, but I do like a bit of order amongst the chaos. I keep telling myself that I certainly haven’t clocked up any air miles – unlike our esteemed Prime Minister who just racked up the carbon emissions by flying to the venue in his own (small) country for a summit on ….. climate change! I’ve even seldom used the car for fifteen months. Now, enough of this self-righteousness – I’ve got to go and get the compost bin started!
Nevergreen is currently available as part of The Living Record at the Brighton Fringe Festival – click here
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