Like Riverside’s recently-revived The Sleepers' Den, Peter
Gill’s second play is something of a period piece. There’s more than a
taste of honey about this one-acter, which charts the sexual emergence
of a young lad in the wrong side of the tracks Cardiff of Gill’s youth.
In the four years between the first play and Over Gardens Out
(1969), the playwright had acquired a dramatic flair. A sequence of
fragmented monologues performed simultaneously, and even the simple
device of a prayer masquerading as the sound of a bluebottle, add
Under Sam Brown’s sharp and insightful direction, a superb cast
bring this potentially mundane streak of 60s naturalism to blazing life.
There’s a sketchiness to some of the characterisations as written (in
particular Laura Hilliard’s all-too-briefly seen landlady), but the
five actors flesh them out with sincerity and truthfulness.
The increasingly physical relationship between Dennis (Meillir Rhys
Williams) and the younger, thuggish Londoner Jeffry (Callum Calaghan)
is enigmatic, not least because of the lack of awareness from the latter
of where the intimate camaraderie is leading. Both actors shine in
their contrasting roles.
Kirsten Clark’s ailing mother is a beautifully-drawn performance
and the relationship with her son, more that of a daughter at times, is
truly touching. Dan Starkey is also excellent as the slightly distant
father, doubling as a subtly lecherous shop assistant.
If The Sleepers' Den stretched its material a little thin,
Over Gardens Out is under-written and cries out for a second act.
It’s not a major work but an insinuatingly satisfying one and is
unlikely to get a better showcase than this.