Lightscape (Royal Botanic Gardens) – theatre review

The unmissable nighttime visual spectacle Lightscape has returned to the Royal Botanic Gardens for a third winter with a reimagined trail and new installations. It is a glorious exhibition of creativity, featuring a stunning array of large-scale illuminated sculptures, many colour-changing. More than that, trees are lit up, there is fire, fog and projections along the two-kilometre walkway.

Returning for a third season is the spectacular Winter Cathedral, a showstopper if there ever was one and a decided crowd pleaser. The luminescent Laser Forest at Fern Gully, with its otherworldly feel, is another eye opener back again and one of the show’s many highlights.

Working my way through the attractions, Fire Garden uses more than 150 candles nightly and incorporates two large orbs of fire. Sea of Light is a large-scale installation that covers the ground with thousands of individually controlled balls of LED light, animated to a bespoke soundtrack. Surfing Birds are delicate, luminous swallows, with wings outstretched on trees – a nod to the passion for surfing.

On Country is a selection of works from eight First Peoples’ artists. Blossom Walk is a lighting treatment given to cherry blossoms, which coat the pathway. Light Angles are rigid, multi-coloured, half line arches that spill pools of light onto the ground. Poetry, such as Witnesses and Urban Forests, by Jeanine Leane is also part of this year’s light trail.

Three artworks originally commissioned by RISING for the First Peoples’ Melbourne Art Trams Program have been adapted into columns of light. They respond to the theme Blak Futurism. Light Lines spread waves of colour across pixel battens that line the walkway and are positioned on the lawn.

Like the cornerstone grand cathedral, Submergence is a walkthrough exhibit in which patrons navigate curtains of lights cascading down from above. The cover artist of a Reconciliation Action Plan, Samantha Richards has two artworks in Lightscape. Gifts from the Land pays homage to the native plantation traditionally found across the land. The Way We Were is about the journeys tribes took, moving from place to place, depending upon the seasons.

Lightscape 2024 is a triumph of form and ingenuity. It is bright, uplifting, fun and  engaging. The walkthrough takes about an hour and a quarter. Beaut family entertainment, it has become a mainstay of the Melbourne winter.

Open Wednesday to Sunday until 4th August, plus on Tuesday 2nd and 9th July, for tickets go to https://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=LSTOURS24

Alex First

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