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Adam Spreadbury-Maher and Ben Cooper for Good Night Out Presents

Over Gardens Out

by Peter Gill

Directed by Sam Brown

Riverside Studios

19 Oct - 6 Nov 2010











A review by Bernie Whelan for EXTRA! EXTRA!

Over Gardens Out is the second of Peter Gill's early plays to be revived at the Riverside, where he became artistic director in 1976 having successfully directed three plays by D. H. Lawrence followed by his own Over Gardens Out and The Sleepers Den at The Royal Court in 1969. The influence of D. H. Lawrence's writing is obvious in these early plays about the frustrations of working class life in Gill's native Cardiff, particularly in Over Gardens Out, which centres on the intense, intimate relationship between a spoiled only son, Dennis, played in his debut performance by Meilir Rhys Williams, and his anxious, menopausal mother, played by Kirsten Clark. Dennis' stolid father is played by Dan Starkey, a cardboard character with little to do except admonish Denis, go to the club and tell his rosary beads. At one point, the sound of him praying off set is heard as a fly droning by Dennis and his mother, which Dennis swots with a newspaper, bringing the corpse to show his mother who recoils in disgust. So much for fathers then.

The most important male relationship in Dennis' life is conducted in secret with Jeffry, a cockney boy sent to work in Cardiff from reform school, played with the right sort of pent-up energy by Calum Calaghan. While the rather sulky, self-indulgent Dennis is so bored with Cardiff that he wishes for something, anything to happen, challenging Jeffry to kill him saying 'I'm dead anyway!', Jeffry, coming from a less stable background, spins around the stage like a Catherine wheel, leaping from one mad, sadistic, violent act to the next but always active, positive and upbeat. There is a groping towards sexual intimacy in the play fighting, both boys enjoy disrupting gender roles by dressing up in women's clothes which they steal from washing lines and both need the other to talk about their anxieties, Dennis about his mother's mortality and Jeffry about his father's sudden death. The tenderness Jeffry shows towards his landlady's (played by Laura Hiliard) baby and the care Dennis finally manages to give his frazzled mother reveals them both as potentially capable of more mature relationships, but the pessimistic tenor of the play suggests that their very human needs will continue to be thwarted.

The set by Annemarie Woods consists of a semi-circle of open shelving units reminding me of 'The Generation Game', with a selection of retro shop paraphernalia including a Bakelite telephone, a plastic laundry basket, an enamel basin, an old TV and radio which played The Who and some ‘60’s pop for Dennis and his mammy to dance to while Father said his prayers, but this was social realism or 'kitchen sink' drama at its most grim. Although its intention was to highlight how society had failed - and one might say continues to fail - working class youth by confounding creativity and quashing natural exuberance into deadening conformity, this early work of Gill's only manages to inflict the tedium of dead end working class life on its audience rather than commenting meaningfully on it.




Riverside Studios
Crisp Road, Hammersmith, London W6 9RL
Tues - Sat 7.45pm, Sat & Sun matinees 3.00pm
Tickets:   Fri & Sat nights £15 (£13 concs.) Tues -Thurs & matinees £14 (£12 concs.)


Box Office: 020 8237 1111




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