Born in the Gardens Wednesday 16th and Thursday 17th May, New Theatre, Exeter, 7.30pm
Creative Cow’s latest production, Born in the Gardens by Peter Nichols, combines an examination of the choices faced by a comically eccentric family with a sharp look at the state of the nation.
It was first performed in 1979, just a few months after The Iron Lady came to power. British behaviour was changing under the onslaught of a different morality in business and upheaval in social structure.
As director Amanda Knott points out, it is a timely revival: She says: “Born in the Gardens is a beautifully written and very funny play, while at the same time being a devastatingly accurate snapshot of it’s times. Britain was as broken then, certainly divided, as it is now and our historical perspective on the play makes it even more fascinating.
She adds: “Social commentary alone is not enough to make extraordinary theatre, but Nichols’ characters are so well drawn that audiences can’t help but care for them, laugh with or at them or be angry with them, all the time hanging on every word they speak and every action they take.”
Living in a crumbling mock-Tudor house in Bristol are elderly Maud and her stay-at-home son Maurice who have settled into a routine seemingly undisturbed by the very recent death of Maud’s husband.
Maud wants nothing more than a good sit down, to chat with the people on her television and to create exotic cocktails made with ingredients like ‘tequino’. One of many hilarious Bristolian malapropisms uttered by Maud, others include ‘michaelwave’ and ‘Afrodisiac’ for her hairdo. All entirely accurate as Bristol, or ‘Brizzle’, was Nichols’ birthplace and a city for which he has evident affection.
Seventy-odd Maud is played by 30-something Katherine Senior who, having played five parts in the Tiverton-based company’s most recent production of Dickens’ Hard Times, is up for the challenge.
She says: “Leaving aside the obvious comic potential of the role, Peter Nichols has created a character with a history. She’s so much a part of her time, which audiences will see, but she yearns for a past beyond eve
Maurice (Edward Ferrow) overprotects his mother, talks to the cat, plays his drums and adores his jazz 78s. Into this idyll comes the future – Maurice’s older brother Hedley (Jonathan Parish), now a Labour MP, and his twin sister Queenie (Rachel Howells) who escaped to America. They are back for the funeral, always a situation that reveals the cracks in a family.
Can Hedley and Queenie convince Maud and Maurice to split apart, turn their backs on Bristol and lead a more ‘normal’ life in LA and London? “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there”, said L P Hartley in The Go-Between.
Come and see Born in the Gardens, a tender and tough, fascinating and funny play to see if Maud and Maurice do anything different in a country which you will certainly remember.
Please call 01392 277189 or 665885 for tickets.