Over the Garden Fence

The debut play from Haylo Theatre, comprising Hayley Riley and Louise Evans, Over the Garden Fence, follows Annabelle and her Gran, Dolly who is suffering from dementia. Through flashback and a huge roster of silly neighbours, we see the impact of her illness on their lives as the actors explore forgetting, recalling and reliving memories. Performed with sincerity and a genuine passion for their subject matter, these actors should be commended for taking on such a difficult topic.

A challenging theme that, while approached with the best of intentions, needed to be handled with slightly more care and precision to be worth the ticket price.

I would’ve liked some more detail or nuance as all the characters were painted in broad brush strokes, including, unfortunately, our protagonists. Much of the characterisation tended towards stereotypes and, to evoke the level of melancholy they are aiming for, we really need more rounded and three-dimensional characters. Dementia and cancer are issues which, while they affect a large proportion of people, don’t present themselves homogeneously. This could’ve been a lovely opportunity to explore the subtlety and specificity of just one of the wide range of people that are affected by these issues but instead we are left with what feels, regrettably, like a generalisation.

The performances weren’t quite pitched to the small space and as a result I was quite overwhelmed by the volume. I felt that the actors resorted to shouting far too often and I wondered if they could find another reaction to the emotionally-charged scenes. For me, the piece didn’t succeed in delivering the pathos they intended as it spent a bit too much time wallowing in sadness. There isn’t enough lightness or humour here to justify how thick the sorrow is laid on throughout the play.

A challenging theme that, while approached with the best of intentions, needed to be handled with slightly more care and precision to be worth the ticket price.

Reviews by Rick Willis

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Performances

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The Blurb

Over the Garden Fence follows the story of Annabelle and her gran Dolly. Annabelle and the audience are taken on a nostalgic journey through Gran's life, sharing memories of happiness, sorrow and joy. It is a fast-paced, uplifting and comical exploration into family, life and relationships. The stories within the play are based on personal experiences. The play engages audiences in the discussion of not only dementia, but family life as well: including the ups and downs, the highs and lows and everything in-between.

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