The Enchanted Forest


JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE ENCHANTED FOREST at the Explorers Garden, Pitlochry, for The Scotsman 19.10.11

3 stars ***

IT’S NOT FOR nothing that Perthshire describes itself as Big Tree Country, home of Scotland’s remaining ancient forest; and if you want to see a whole hillside of those magnificent trees from a new and often thrilling perspective, then you could do worse than join the other 24,000 people who are confidently expected, this month, to visit the spectacular Enchanted Forest event at the Explorers Garden beside Pitlochry Festival Theatre, now in its ninth successful year.

Enchanted Forest is a sound-and-light event, staged in the dark autumn evenings. This year’s show – titled Transitions, and created by lighting designer Simon Wilkinson and composer/sound designer R.J. McConnell – leads us gently around the whole length of the hillside, inviting us to look again at the shapes, the grandeur, the exquisite detail of the trees around us, lit by sweeping laser arcs, or by quiet swathes of unexpected colour, from blood-red to deep turquoise; the centrepiece of the event is a majestic and often moving ten-minute son-et-lumiere display staged in the deep gorge around the burn that runs through the garden.

The event also includes smaller installations, though, including a colourful “sound harp” that allows children to trigger sounds among the trees by brushing their hands over a photo-cell. To my mind, the show is slightly confused in its mood and approach; it markets itself as family fun, attracts huge numbers of young children, and seems to encourages its adult audience members to view the whole event through a lens, as a kind of family photo opportunity.

Yet at its best, it actually meets a relatively inward and adult need to contemplate, and re-connect with, the magnificent complexity and grandeur of the natural world around us. “D’you want your picture taken on that big pine cone, Samantha?” said a Glasgow Dad to a little three-year-old, as I passed. “No,” said Samantha firmly. “What’re you like?” said Dad. And it’s a question that this show leaves unanswered; about what children are really like, and where their tastes truly coincide with those of the grown-ups, many of whom might gain more from this experience if – like a critic – they had the privilege of visiting it alone.


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