Saturday, 19 September 2009


En route home from East Anglia, we paused in Oxford in order to go to the Botanic Gardens. I'm ashamed to admit it was my first ever visit. Nor even this time was I there principally to see the Gardens themselves, but because they were the venue for "Susurrus".

This is one of the Oxford Playhouse's "Plays Out", put on to encourage audiences to think differently about theatrical work and where it's performed. At the entrance, you pick up headphones, a miniature iPod-type device and a map. At each of eight different points, you are invited to sit down and listen to a passage on the tape, with appropriate music as you walk round in between.

Susurrus - meaning a soft murmuring or rustling sound - is perhaps not the most appropriate title for a play being performed quite so close to the Oxford traffic. Though the content itself is dark, the musical reference points (Britten's Dream, Janet Baker, and Maria Callas's last UK concerts) and the beautiful setting of the Gardens made it, for me, both a nostalgic and an enlivening experience.

For Caroline, it was rather less so, but both were glad we had made the effort to set aside an hour to go. Susurrus is on till 27th, I see from the theatre's website: if you are anywhere near between now and then, I recommend it.

I certainly hadn't appreciated how extensive and impressive the Botanic Gardens were, nor how close to the Cherwell: next week, with the new term starting, people will doubtless be in these punts if the weather holds.

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