Review: The Garden, Tristan Bates

Playing at Tristan Bates with alumni from The Play That Goes Wrong, The Garden is like Beckett but with humour and heart

“We are the real onions”

Written by and starring alumni from The Play That Goes Wrong (which I have still yet to get around to going to see), new play The Garden is undergoing a short run at the Tristan Bates in association with Carers Trust. Fundraising efforts have allowed for tonight’s performance to be offered as a welcome respite for carers, to provide a bit of a treat for them.

And it is a fascinating play that they’re getting to see. Set up as a Beckettian take on the Garden of Eden, it is far more deftly comic than that would seemingly allow for. When you’ve got Colin and Veronica instead of Adam and Eve, how could it not be?! Crucially though, The Garden is also rather touching in its gentle drama, leaving me more moved than I’ve ever been in an actual Beckett play.

This version of Eden is an onion field, ruled over by an unseen ‘Her’, and the illicit fruit just out of touch is a tomato. Which is a fruit, not a vegetable… And here, writers Phil Spencer and Fred Gray have real fun deconstructing notions of gender, of sex, of language itself as Colin (Tom Babbage) and Veronica (Jamie Birkett) deal with the numbing reality of being stuck together, forever.

The storytelling proves as vivid as the writing (I’ll never think of ‘keeping your eyes peeled’ the same way again) as the pair work out a kind of sibling dynamic, something a little problematic when they’re meant to be populating the world. And Birkett and Babbage develop a beautiful relationship from the tenderness of real affection to the ecstasy of the best games of tag.

As heretical as it may be, this really is like Beckett but with humour and heart, why not go spend some time in The Garden this week.

Running time: 60 minutes (without interval)
The Garden is booking at the Tristan Bates Theatre until 7th April

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