Poisoned Arrows on Target for Success

Drama, history and botany are cleverly interwoven in Poisoned Arrows, a new ambitious production to mark the bicentenary of famous Scots explorer David Livingstone.

On Saturday and Sunday (26 and 27 October 2013), the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) will host the unique walking storytelling event through its spectacular Glasshouses.

With a cast of four actors/storytellers hailing from Scotland and Botswana, audiences will be taken on a journey back through time to meet John Kirk – Livingstone’s botanist and other characters affected by his work and legacy.

Inspired by archive collections of the correspondence between Kirk and the RBGE’s Regius Keeper (Director) at the time John Hutton Balfour, as well as the bicentenary of David Livingstone’s birth, Director of the Scottish Storytelling Centre Donald Smith has devised an original script for these special performances.

Ian Edwards, Head of Events and Exhibitions at RBGE, explained: “From the archive of the RBGE we have discovered correspondence that provides a fascinating insight into the perilous state of central Africa in the mid nineteenth century when slave trading had set one community against another. John Kirk a young Scottish botanist found himself caught in the crossfire between warring groups and his letters reveal more about these inter-tribal relations than the plants he found on his expeditions. ‘’

The audience will enjoy a bustling welcome from John Hutton Balfour in the Palm House, which was built under his leadership. They will hear astonishing tales of Livingstone and Kirk’s Zambezi expedition in the Orchid House - complete with fever, leaking boats, shooting elephants, slave raids… and of course poisoned arrows. Enjoy conversations about fair trade amongst our banana and cocoa plants in the Plants and People House and be captivated by stories of the Tree of Life in the Arid House.

The RBGE horticulture team has teamed up with a Scottish-Malawian collaboration, JANEEMO, who work with households in Malawi to grow their permaculture skills in order to improve nutrition and food security, restore the environment and adapt to a changing climate. Thanks to seeds donated by JANEEMO they have been able to add to the Garden’s collection of plants with key food crops such as castor bean, red lima bean, arrowroot, blackjack, zumba and luffa. Grant Davidson of the James Hutton Institute, JANEEMO project director, said: “As well as giving fascinating historical insight into life on an African expedition, Poisoned Arrows shows how many of the plants collected by these pioneers are still vitally important to Africans today.“

The National Library of Scotland will be hosting a special free preview of Poisoned Arrows to coincide with their exhibition Picturing Africa: Illustrating Livingstone’s Travels (which runs until 3 November). This ticketed preview will take place on Thursday 24 October from 2.30pm to 3.30pm (ticket reservations on 0131 623 3734 / events@nls.uk) and will display one of John Kirk’s original letters to John Hutton Balfour, which will be loaned from RBGE for the day along with a small number of contemporary photographs and botanic sketches selected from Kirk’s personal papers at the National Library of Scotland.

Poisoned Arrows will be one of the highlights of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival 2013, and has been made possible thanks to support from David Livingstone 200.

Poisoned Arrows @ Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh on Vimeo.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)