Over the Garden Fence

14/08/17

Greensides, Infirmary Street, Edinburgh

Over the Garden Fence is a tender two-hander charting the life-story of ‘Dolly,’ her tragic descent into dementia and the impact on her family. It’s charmingly told – if a little earnest – and it’s clear to see how it meets Haylo Theatre’s aim of using theatre to “highlight key issues within the areas of health, social care and the elderly.”

Louise Evans handles the role of Dolly with grace and generosity: this is an affectionate portrayal of a well-realised character. Hayley Riley takes on the less showy role of Annabelle, Dolly’s granddaughter, who is upset (and sometimes irritated) by the old woman’s behaviour, frustrated that her Gran keeps making odd mistakes. Both actors also play a host of other parts: the neighbours, the husband, the best friend, etc.

They make the most of the black-box space, with a few carefully-chosen props and some interesting techniques. A standout is the slo-mo ‘happy birthday’ sequence, with the happy recollection of a turning nine years-old juxtaposed beautifully with awful memories from later on in life.

It’s not all misery: there is humour here, and moments of happiness. Indeed, the ending is so bittersweet it makes me dewy-eyed.

Okay, so there a few minor quibbles – how many working-class northerners were eating salsa in the 1950s, for example? – but, overall, this is a decent, thought-provoking little play that well deserves an audience.

4 stars

Susan Singfield

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