Power Plant – A Sound and Light Experience *****

Assembly @ Royal Botanic Gardens, 12 – 30 August 2009

Reviewed for the British Theatre Guide

It was a dark and stormy night. Even if it hadn’t been a genuinely dark and stormy night, it would have felt like one in the glasshouses of the Royal Botanic Gardens, thanks to the Power Plant installation. Full as they are of weird and wonderful rare flora, a visit to the glasshouses is transportative even in broad daylight; but after nightfall, full of stage smoke, humming and pealing with the alien sounds of the installation’s various objets d’art, the experience is nothing short of otherworldly.

Unlike Punchdrunk’s Tunnel 228, perhaps the most closely analogous event, it’s difficult to miss anything Power Plant has to offer. While there is no set route, and paths do diverge, and the pieces are all nestled in the tropical jungle like they grew there, maps are provided, and even without them an unhurried, mentally alert stroll through should naturally pass all the exhibits. It’s easy, therefore, to become totally immersed in the atmosphere without worrying about missing out.

That atmosphere is due in large part to the sonic element of many of the pieces, from Kirsten Reynolds’ plinking, hissing gramophones, their turntables replaced with cogwheels or astroturf, to Jony Easterby’s PLUMOSASCENS – Feathertum, which fills a whole glasshouse with the massively amplified boom of a feather brushing taut guitar strings. Mark Anderson’s IGNIFER CONSPIRO – Pyrophones, a series of musical braziers that belch plumes of flame along with pan-pipe whistles, is a spectacular midpoint highlight. It’s a groaning, flickering, whirring, mutating, eerily beautiful world you won’t want to leave.

Exhibitors include Mark Anderson, Jony Easterby, Kirsten Reynolds

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