Away with the piskies at Heligan

Is it a problem, Alice? Is it a problem to prance about dressed up as piskies, if you do it really, really well?

Is it a problem that my entrance into Heligan is a meeting with a sprite, who gives me a wristband?

Does it matter to the garden that there are cupcakes hanging from the trees and that you say it is like Alice in Wonderland, a magic world under the ground, rather than a recovered Victorian garden on the Cornish peninsula?

The dresses swinging from those branches are beautiful white, ghostly shapes, but why is the garden haunted by women Alice?

Would the garden look different to me, Alice, if I wasn’t always being shown where to go by dancers in pyjamas with flowers in their hair?

Why is a man with horns and glittery cheeks beckoning me into the land of fae?

Does this have something to do with Cornwall, Alice? Anything?

I thought this was ‘immersive theatre’, my darling, it said so on the publicity, but this is actually a regular theatre, isn’t it, set up on the grass here – I mean now we’ve come through the twisty path with the faery signposts and the man reciting poetry and the woman playing the accordion.

It’s an extremely beautiful theatre, I’ll give you that. I suppose it might not matter that this golden twilight, these green undulations, that astonishing sea view is a backdrop to all these…revels. There’s a plump moon in a diaphanous headdress sitting awkwardly on a perch, a bit like budgie, but warm and smiling. She and the horned man are good hosts. Perhaps it doesn’t matter that the sea and pisky image of Cornwall is a bit at odds with the harsh economic reality of the interior towns.

You can’t really expect… and they do it so well…

What was that first story again? Let me recap. A gardener in Heligan finds seven wedding rings in a pond. The backstory is that his father was running away from hounds, trying to save a hare. I don’t know why a poacher was trying to save a hare, but he fell through into faery land and made a deal with Pluto. I’m not sure why Pluto was in faery land. He made a deal for three more years of life, then went back to Heligan. The hounds chased him again and he ran away into the pond. Neptune then married him to all seven of his daughters so that they could walk on land. I’m not sure why Neptune was in the pond. I’m not sure why they needed to marry Mr Fox to walk on land, but they all seemed to be very happy in this polygamous relationship and they brought up the son, the future gardener together. Let me finish. Mr Fox dies after the three years are up. Then the boy grows up and he finds the rings. He sees the face of the one who looks like his real mother reflected in the pond, and everyone knows he’s going to die in World War One, and he leaves. I suppose I wasn’t looking for an analysis of the causes of the Great War: that might have been a bit depressing.

It was a bit like listening to someone else’s dream.

You can’t judge Shakespeare by the plotting, either.

The 1000 moons thing was really pretty. The entire company dressed in white ballet dresses and wings. No, I agree, actually the writing was poetic, and they can really dance, too. You said it made you feel glad to be alive. That can’t be a bad thing.

The ‘selfie-stick’ story was a good update on Faust. The plot didn’t quite work again, but I take your point, it’s just annoying me picking holes in it. The way she spanked the Devil was charming.


Damn it, they can really do this pisky thing, it’s just…

And the dry ice. That is good use of dry ice.

I did see swallows fly above the set: darts of happiness.

We had to leave the updated Cinderella before the end.

I left one glittering misgiving behind the mud maid.

What’s that? If you can’t prance about dressed as a faery, what’s the point of life? I see the force in that, Alice. It’s what Uncle Tacko says as well.

Can one afford to take the word of an 11 year old and a man who owns a Flea Circus?

Can one afford not to?








Rogue Theatre performed at the Lost Gardens of Heligan and will do so on various dates through August. They really know what they are doing, if you like this kind of thing.