July 19, 2008

Born in the Gardens

This revival, after nearly 30 years, of Peter Nichols' Bristol- based comedy gives Bath audiences the chance to chuckle at the foibles of the big neighbour down the road.

And with the wonderfully familiar Stephanie Cole in the lead role of Maud, the chuckles come thick and fast.

She's a Bristolian of the old school, partial to a tequilal or two, and about as politically incorrect, probably even by 1979 standards, as it's possible to be.

The character is also something of a benign tyrant, sharing a crumbling mock Tudor mansion with her younger son, Mo, who looks after her peculiar whims.

At 45, isn't it about time that he was allowed to break free and have his own life?

His twin sister, who has escaped to Californial, and his older brother, a pompous MP, think so and do their utmost to persuade Maud of the advantages of downsizing to a maisonette so the mansion can be sold for redevelopment.

The play is very definitely set in the pre-mobile 1970s but the theme of who cares for elderly parents and family dynamics is equally relevant now.

One or two particularly dark sides of family life are touched on very subtly in Stephen Unwin's production, but for the most part it's a very funny, and moving, depiction of a relationship that has developed into mutual dependence.

Allan Corduner, as Maurice, and the redoubtable Stephanie Cole are quite brilliant at portraying the joshing warring that close- knit living entails, leaving Simon Shepherd, as MP Hedley, and Miranda Foster as the other twin, powerless on the sidelines.

The play continues in repertory until August 9.

Judy Boyd

(c) 2008 Bath Chronicle, The. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.