Reviewer: Dan Osborne

Location: Buxton Fringe Festival

‘Over The Garden Fence’ showcases the considerable talents of Hayley Riley and Louise Evans in a tale of memories and loss, tears and laughter that will surely live long in the minds of many of us lucky enough to witness this Fringe gem – and sadly there are to be no repeat performances this time around. This is the first production by the Haylo Theatre Company but I very much imagine it won’t be their last.

It is a simple enough tale – following her increasing dementia, Dolly Griffin is leaving the house she has lived in for 64 years to move into a home and is being helped by her granddaughter Annabelle to gather together a few treasured belongings to take with her. In the hands of these two assured actors things are by turns both moving and funny and as objects are sifted, we are regaled with stories ranging from a kitchen mishap resulting in an unintentionally vegetarian Christmas dinner to Dolly’s romantic first dance with her future husband Geoffrey. In one particularly moving scene, a childhood birthday party is soured by news of the war and scenes of birthday exuberance are intercut with slow motion enactments of frontline horror – at first recreated by them both but particularly effective and chilling when Dolly is experiencing horror whilst Annabelle is smiling and laughing along to the strains of Happy Birthday.

These versatile actors also show us the various “concerned” neighbours who delight in keeping the family informed of her increasingly bizarre behaviour – “She was outside in her slippers … nothing but her slippers”.

The acting is impeccable throughout with the production using the specifics of Dolly’s own experience to explore more universal themes such as the way memory can be so powerful that it can feel “more real in your mind than what you see”, despite being housed in the “fragile library of the mind”.

This was an excellent hour of Fringe entertainment. If you missed it, there is a chance to see it at the Bollington Arts Centre on Friday 14th November.

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