Scottish Plant Collectors Garden, Pitlochry, 2003
In a small and half formed garden in theScottish town of Pitlochry, Sweet Fanny Adams became incarnate in a human form. Playwright Judith Adams’ creation Sweet Fanny Adams in Eden was performed by a troupe of actors in the Scottish Plant Collector ’s Garden. They were assisted by: costumes; a container of props; some sets; a sound system; and an array of sophisticated digital technology. In two hours they told the stories of three women, three men, and a little girl dressed in red (who may have had wings). Audiences were delighted by the piece, which combined the fairy tales of their past with a distinctly 21st century sense of humour.
Sweet Fanny Adams was a promenade performance, with scenes taking place simultaneously across several locations around the seven-acre space. Despite this ambitious approach, reviews from favourable across the board. In common with the audience, the summary was always 'I’ve never seen anything like it!'
After the Stellar Quines Theatre Company commissioned Adams, she began researching the characters and the gardens upon which it was suggested the play should be based. She quickly found that there were myriad ideas and several interlinking themes, swimming around in her own head, and in the writings and words of her subjects. How to connect them in a way that made sense?
Collaborating with the design and multimedia production company Fifty Nine, Adams found that existing Internet authoring technology could be adapted to her needs. As the characters’ words were typed into the computer, so too were the links between the scenes, and ‘core texts’ to which they referred.
Many scenes in Adams’ earlier work are characterised by a certain antagonism to linearity, with the various characters’ words and worlds overlapping and mirroring one-another, creating what may be described as a symphony of speech. Just like a musical composition, the individual instruments (in this case, human voices) are each a part of a greater whole. The Internet (or more specifically the HTML pages that may also be viewed on a computer without an online connection) provided a much better medium with which to generate this sort of writing. Overlapping and concurrent scenes may be presented just so. If a character repeats a refrain from an earlier scene, well, that scene with all its richness may be ‘linked’ to its counterpart in the later acts.
Of course, once the non-linearity of the medium became apparent to the playwright, the proverbial floodgates proverbially opened. If one were not constrained by notions of ‘before-and-after’ or ‘here-and-there’ (just like the fictional, fairy-tale characters, and just like our imaginations), why stay in one time, or one place? Presented with an entirely new method of writing plays, Judith Adams presented an entirely new type of play. Worlds collide. One word shoots a fountain of others in all directions. Embracing the medium, the playwright created scenes that did not require a place in a linear narrative.
Video was introduced as a means by which a character could physically exist in more than one place. Moreover, in this context of suppression and dominion, video also represented an alternative mental space.