The Walled Garden (1990)

Duration: 10’
For keyboard synth and pre-recorded track (flute: Nicola Ellis)
Choreography: Michael Pink
Lighting Design: Mark Grabiec
First performed at the Minerva, Chichester as part of the 1989 Ballet Central National tour.

Michael Pink’s dramatic narrative ballet for the 1989 Ballet Central National Tour, The Walled Garden, was a supernatural parable in which a young man (Simon Smith) trespasses into a walled garden to be enchanted by the piper (Fergus Logan), magically seduced by the maiden (Chiaki Nagao) only to be kidnapped by the gamekeeper (Paul Lester). Whether the boy escaped was not determined – the sudden blackout left him quite literally in the air. The wall was constructed out of scaffolding bars reconstructed onstage at every venue.

The score was an electronic piece based around a customized loop on the Roland D550, a kind breathy flute machine sound which gives the work a strong animated energy from the outset. It was augmented by not only a high piccolo patch that was played live, but by a genuine flute beautifully pre-recorded by Nicola Ellis, which plays the haunting melody of the duet. Some inadvertent talking from the recording session found its way on to the 8 track, and indeed on to the final mix, but it sounded sufficiently spooky that it actually enhanced the scene. In the final chase sequence, the driving loop relentlessly builds to the sudden end, with a live woodblock being added in performance, to create a different sound source and to ratchet up the tension.

The demonic energy of the last section gave credence to the idea that the piece was a cautionary modern-day allegory about AIDS, an issue that had quite a raised profile in the late eighties.