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Over Gardens Out

Peter Gill
Southwark Playhouse
(2005)

Over Gardens Out publicity image

This play has remarkable similarities to Lovely Evening, the first play in the double bill directed by Daniel Evans at Theatre 503 last month.

It is set in Cardiff in 1968 and tells the story of innocent, adolescent mammy's boy, Dennis (played by Ryan Sampson) who is still at university. Apart from the fact that he is a couple of years younger and rather more gauche, he could be a carbon copy of the protagonist of Lovely Evening, Laurence, who had just lost his mother and was discovering sex.

Young director, Andrew Steggall, a man whose ambitions should lead him to the heights, creates the atmosphere well. In this, he is assisted by an effective soundscape from Sarah Weltman and the efforts of his designer, Tom Curtis who is still at drama school. Curtis surrounds his audience with lines full of drying washing and dresses his cast in the dowdiest of period costumes.

Dennis struggles to come to terms with his impending manhood. He fights with his father and is constantly embarrassed in public by his mother, never more so than when she takes him to buy a pair of shoes in the local Co-op. There he encounters a shop assistant, humorously played by Guy Lewis, who seems far more interested in him sexually than as a customer.

Similar problems arise with his only friend, Jeremy Joyce's Jeffrey. The pair enjoy the rough and tumble of boyhood games but increasingly, this Londoner seems to end up clambering all over his young friend. Ultimately, Jeffrey makes his sexual approach, which is just too much for Dennis, although in the year or two, give or take a sexuality change, he will become Laurence and the shoe will be on the other foot.

The best performance of the evening is given by Dido Miles playing Dennis's mother. She knows that she is almost certainly, like the tragic Robert Kennedy, about to die. Throughout, though, she selflessly looks after and supports her sometimes uncaring son and cold husband, played by Phillip Joseph.

Over Gardens Out is an hour-long analysis of the embarrassment of adolescence but though it is touching, it does not carry the weight of Gill's much more mature, Lovely Evening.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher