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To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Next Stage Theatre at The Mission, Ann Garner has taken on this hugely technical and challenging work by Ayckbourn which demands both plays to be performed in two spaces, at the same time, with one cast racing between the two. The downstairs area at The Mission has been transformed into the garden whilst the cafe area is now the “house.” The garden also becomes the venue for the village fete and the opportunity to mix with the company and raise funds for Dorothy House Hospice, so bring some change.

On their opening night, I was watching “Garden” in typical Ayckbourn manner it is about disappointment, people failing to listen to each other and being unable to fix the dysfunctional relationships that they are embroiled in.

The cast rise to the occasion, the timing between the two spaces just about manageable and the village fete spirit is well and truly captured with a maypole, stalls and the obligatory stocks.

The brilliance of this device is the intrigue of what is happening elsewhere, characters disappear into the house to return in a drunken state with much having been discussed out of our sight, the other audience would indeed be experiencing a similar situation.

As always the Next Stage Company work their magic in what must be an epic task for a performer. There are moments of greatness, Tim Evans as Teddy Platt lost in a drunken conversation with French celebrity guest Lucille Cadeau played by Alison Paine and the ever reliable David Dunn as Warn Coucher, grumbling and complaining as the annual chaos unravels around him.

This is a fine team effort well worth watching, Alan Ayckbourn is paying the company a visit later in the week, I am sure he will be suitably impressed – I am looking forward to visiting the house tomorrow.

Petra Schofield