Take yourself away from the busy seafront streets and you’ll find About the Garden, a charming and quirky production staged in 4 Rigden Road’s garden, in the heart of Hove.
The whole production is infused with a sense of joie de vivre
When businessman George decides to read the paper on the garden bench of the new property he has just started renting, it is not long before he is confronted by Hilary who believes that George has no right to be there at all. It isn’t long before they’re joined by a whole host of comical characters marching into the garden in this gentle farce.
The whole production is infused with a sense of joie de vivre. A particular standout scene was an impromptu sing-a-long session (complete with garden hose as a make believe microphone) where the energy and joy that radiated from every performer encapsulated everything we’ve missed about live interactions during lockdown. Another especially funny scene was Hilary and Mary attempting to move the intoxicated Mollie without actually touching her.
It transpires that the characters lives were intertwined, some more believably than others, and the performances from all were heightened to emphasise the humour of the situation. Graham White was very convincing as old school businessman whose career had flourished in Singapore, whilst Jacqueline Andrews was magnetic as his disorderly former lover Mollie. Jackie Thomas was graceful and elegant as the widowed Joanna, whilst Robin Humphreys held court as the anxious Hilary.
Sylvia Vickers has done an admirable job directing within this site specific garden; having performers interact both within the conservatory at the same time as in garden gave the staging added depth. Edgar Taljaard was also entertaining as the brash Colin, but it was Gillian Eddison as Mary who stole the show. With perhaps the most emotional storyline of all, she was never veered into being over sentimental, and her character’s crush on Gordon Brown was highly amusing.
Unfortunately, the play seemed to lose its way in the third act. Trying to resolve several entire life stories in the final third meant that some threads were tricky to follow, and hefty revelations were introduced for too late for satisfactory resolutions. In particular, the declarations between Hilary and Joanna, as well as Colin and his mother Mary, felt too rushed considering their importance. Other times, the pacing wasn’t quite right, with hours seemingly passing in minutes.
Luckily for this performance it was a splendidly sunny afternoon, but Wired Theatre were also recording the play with the foresight that they may not always be blessed by the unpredictable English weather. But if you do have the pleasure of sitting in the actual garden, it certainly does make you feel as if you truly are stepping into the lives of the characters. Feeling the warmth of the sunshine and listening to the birds sing around us added to the relaxing and enjoyable atmosphere.
Although About the Garden is not overly refined performance, and it does lose some of its dynamism in the final act, there are few more pleasant ways to spend a sunny afternoon.