Magic in the forest;Arts

16th July 1999 at 01:00
The Green Man helps Kay Smith cross into a timeless world of endless renewal in the woodlands

"Arbour", an outdoor performance celebrating the timelessness of nature, will take place tomorrow at Bowhill House Mansion, near Selkirk. The, piece originally planned for last week but postponed because of torrential rain, has been devised for Go For It, a company of adults with Down's syndrome. Directed by Jenna Agate, it will be performed in and around the mansion's woods and loch, with Borders' writer in residence Tom Bryan narrating. As the timeless figure of the Green Man, he tells the audience from his boat on the loch: "There is no death. there is only change."

Go for It dancers are timeless creatures too. Their costumes, by award-winning designer Kate Borthwick, are based on the garments people would have worn as they lived and worked in the woodlands through the ages. Not quite recycled, but "remagicked", as Ms Borthwick puts it. Leaves, twigs and flowers are recreated in subtly coloured fabrics.

As the audience wanders through the woods, dancers interpret the environment, whose longest living inhabitants, the trees, are up to 300 years old. The beech, Tom Bryan explains, is "the mother of the forest - the first wisdom". Its name in many languages means book. It can also be "the great healing tree" that fulfils wishes - bury your wish beside it, and "the time it takes to reclaim your words, is the time it takes for the wish to come true," says the Green Man.

Further on, the history of Columba's landing is recounted, and the history of the oak, used in the Scottish Wars of Independence to make siege machines, recycled in peace time as ploughs and arching beams in churches. "No death, only change," reiterates Tom Bryan.

The dancers and the Green Man are accompanied by professional Borders musicians playing harp, violin, flute and percussion instruments, and singer Elspeth Smellie, who warns of the ravages nature - and man - can inflict. But the final statement is left to dancer James Donan, who, as a buddha perched amid an arbour of real bamboos, bows and gestures to the audience as they complete their timeless passage through the woods.

Arbour, Bowhill House Gardens, near Selkirk, July 17, 3pm

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