theatre Plant Hunter Botanical Gardens

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The Independent Culture
Among the many rare species of show flourishing on this year's fringe, there can be few stranger than Theatrum Botanicum's Plant Hunter, a full-blown hallucinogenic spectacle running riot among the herbaceous borders of the city's botanical gardens. Conceived and directed by Toby Gough, the show describes the life of the botanist Joseph Rock, mapping his biography on to the geography of the park and leading the audience on an allegorical journey through dense thickets of Oxidental Cosmology, Buddhist mythology and meditations on the Chinese oppression of Tibet.

Many of the audience had seen Linnaeus Gough's extravagant open-air debut two years ago, and returned with blankets and anoraks. That suggested they knew the evening was to be something more athletic than a night out in Regent's Park. But no one could have been prepared for the wildly inchoate ramblings that followed for the next two and a half hours.

Ambushed by a white rabbit, the audience were informed that since his death, Rock's soul had been in limbo, and it was our duty to play out his life again and strive to achieve Nirvana. Even in interactive theatre, collectively rebirthing the audience as the protagonist of your drama is a bold move - and things only got stranger. Dancing gods were succeeded by dancing llamas, tantric chants by the dancing of the Gangjong Doeghar Troop. A wheel of fortune transformed the audience into participants in a giant Buddhist game show. Chopped about and spread thinly over this mystic spectacle, Rock's biography all but disappeared so that one gained little insight into his background or beliefs. But whatever its failings, Gough's Tibetan folly is undoubtedly a genuine flowering of Theatre Exotica.

n To 24 Aug (not Sun 18)

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