In Simon Reade’s adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel, a teenage German girl, Elizabeth, is forced to leave Dresden with her mother when the RAF bomb their city. The play begins on November 9, 1989 as the Berlin wall is being dismantled. It is told as a memory by Elizabeth.
Accompanying Lizzie and Mutti on their hurried escape is a young elephant from the city zoo named Marlene (as in Dietrich). On their journey toward safety they pick up some other unexpected refugees. With unfailing charm, An Elephant In The Garden makes you forget nationality and see everyone as equal in the catastrophic setting of the Second World War. The story alters our idea of ‘the enemy’ as love blossoms among the displaced. The instantaneous decisions we must make in times of crisis reveal the true values we hold in our hearts. Forced to flee one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Lizzie and her Mom gain access to each other in an extraordinary way.
We know the outcome of the Second World War. The end of the ongoing refugee crisis seems less certain. An Elephant in the Garden helps us see refugees as individuals. It makes us sympathize, laugh and fall in love with them. This play is a gentle giant itself, it is sweet and innocent, but has an impact on an enormous scale.
In the words of actor, John David Washington (Black Klansman), ‘Our hope is in inclusion.’