Representatives from Chorley Little Theatre were instrumental this year in establishing a show garden at the massively popular Southport Flower Show in time for its 90th anniversary.
Estelle Bryers, who volunteers at the theatre, came up with the idea of a garden to represent CADOS’s upcoming show ‘Woman in Mind’ after first appearing at the Chorley Flower Show last year, promoting their Beauty and the Beast pantomime. In Astley Park, Estelle realised that the Farmhouse lined up perfectly with her vision of a new show garden, and set about making plans to attend once again.
‘Everything just lined up perfectly,’ Estelle says. ‘A show garden for a show – it was brilliant! In the play, our main character Susan wakes up in the garden. She suffers a brain injury after stepping on a rake and the lines between reality and fantasy begin to blur. That’s what we wanted to capture with our garden.
Estelle’s garden was designed in the shape of a rake, with the path leading up the middle as the handle and the stage area at the back as the teeth. One side of the garden was designed to represent Susan’s mundane everyday existence, with dead grass and bark strewn about, while the other captured her fantasy world, full of rainbow colours and bright lawns. Flowers on display included coleus, begonias and pelargoniums.
‘We wanted a semi-artificial feel to the fantasy side, so we mowed the grass in opposite stripes and decorated the area with some artificial flowers,’ Estelle continues.
The garden was specifically designed to appear as a theatre set would, Estelle explains. The ‘stage’ area at the back was raised with a door that leads to nowhere, framed as part of the building behind at Astley Park and as a backdrop at Southport. This created a rather strange illusion of depth and place. It was also wider at the front like a real stage, giving the effect of wings where actors might be waiting to perform.
Once the Chorley Flower Show ended, the team moved the garden along to Southport.
‘It was a real community effort,’ Estelle tells me. ‘Everyone from Chorley Little Theatre got involved, and we had members of the Chorley Fairtrade group here to provide refreshments – and run around in a banana costume! We also had our actress who plays Susan in costume in the garden for a photoshoot.’
Chorley Little Theatre also maintained close contact with Chorley Council throughout, along with local garden sponsors Paul Green Nurseries and Wonderwall, who supplied plants and planters.
The garden gained the approval of celebrity guests attending the show, including The Hairy Bikers’ Dave Myers and TV gardener Christine Walkden.
‘Ever since I was a kid I dreamed of having a show garden at Southport Flower Show!’ Estelle says. ‘I go there every year for my birthday and it was an amazing thing to finally be part of. The thing I really wanted to achieve from our garden – and the reason I volunteer at the theatre – is to make memories with families, and hopefully appear in a few family photo albums!’
With so many CADOS shows coming up, there’ll certainly be plenty of opportunities to do so. For a full line-up of shows and more information about the theatre, visit www.chorleylittletheatre.com