A late 70’s living room is the set for Creative Cow’s latest production, Born in the Gardens, although the outdated furnishings might make the audience think it is much earlier. Across the front of the stage are two sets of cage-like bars and, sitting quietly in an armchair watching the black and white television set, (and occasionally taking time out to wave at the incoming patrons) is a gorilla. Yes, a gorilla that, as the house lights dim, simply gets up and exits stage left.
Taking his place, centre stage, are Maurice Edward Ferrow - the youngest of three children and the only one not to have flown the nest, his Mother, Maud Katherine Senior – a woman who is the epitome of the great British eccentric, and Maud’s very recently deceased husband – who lies in an open coffin, overflowing with flowers, at the back of the stage.
Maud’s favourite pastime is talking to the TV, particularly her “friends” who keep reappearing in almost every advert break. She cannot hear them, as the TV is faulty, but she tells them the important news of the day and informs her son which person it is that is “listening”. Sometimes it’s the “lady with the headache” other times the “lady from the bank” but it’s never the people who read the news, as she is not at all fond of them.
Maurice likes to play his old 78s of New Orleans jazz bands, which he accompanies on his drum kit, and both seem to have a penchant for trying out strange and exotic cocktails on a frighteningly regular basis. Their life is simple, due to a phobia of just about every gadget known to modern man and even the “michael-wave” has the recoiling in terror.
As father’s funeral is the next day, Maud’s other two children arrive at the mock-Tudor family home. Hedley Jonathan Parish is a back-bench MP for the Labour Party and Queenie Rachel Howells, Maurice’s twin sister, is a Los Angeles based writer.
In no time at all the petty jealousies and hidden agendas, which somehow always seem to surface at family get-togethers, begin to become apparent. Hedley has decided that his Mother should sell the 14 room mansion and move into somewhere more suitable for “a woman in her condition”. Queenie has decided that, as she has never successfully broken the bond with her twin, she will take Maurice back to America with her.
The only problem is that nobody has asked Maud and Maurice what they would like to do and, as they seem perfectly happy together, maybe those that see fit to be meddling in their lives and futures would be better placed sorting out their own deceitful, troubled and messy lives.
From the very unorthodox beginning the tone is set for a wonderfully amusing play that celebrates eccentricity, examines family life, questions progress and, at the end of the performance, with the bars now back in place across the front of the stage, asks the simple question – If the bars are between us, which of us is trapped inside the cage?