The Sleepers' Den and Over Gardens Out, by Peter Gill
The Sleepers' Den and Over Gardens Out are brilliant studies of different aspects of Cardiff working-class life, presented with a harrowing documentary realism and a shattering emotional impact. The Sleepers' Den depicts vividly the pathetic plight of the Shannon family, grandmother, mother and daughter, living in squalid surroundings and totally incapable of fending for itself: by implication, the play criticises a society that is unable to give them any practical help. Its frequent touches of humour underline the stark predicament of the younger Mrs. Shannon, forced by circumstances to draw heavily on her frail emotional resources to keep the family together.
Over Gardens Out is full of rich images and depicts impressionistically the touching relationship between two young boys: totally different, both bright, but hampered by the limits of their backgrounds. The play is again full of humour, ironically highlighting the sombre way in which the boys' surroundings slowly cripple their individuality. Peter Gill was responsible for the productions of both these plays, described as 'utterly compulsive' and 'very moving' by Frank Marcus and Robert Cushman of The Sunday Telegraph. They ran in repertory together for a season in The Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court.
Peter Gill was born in 1939 in Cardiff and started his professional career as an actor. He switched to directing on becoming Assistant Director at the Royal Court, where his productions included Joe Orton's Crimes of Passion and Otway's neglected classic The Soldier's Fortune. He made his reputation in 1968 as one of Britain's leading young theatre directors with his widely-acclaimed, ecstatically-received productions of the D. H. Lawrence trilogy (A Collier's Friday Night, The Daughter-in-Law and The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd), which had the effect of 'discovering' Lawrence as a playwright for the first time. He won first prize the same year at the Belgrade International Theatre Festival for his production of The Daughter-in-Law. In 1970, he will be directing the American premiere of Harold Pinter's Landscape and Silence at the Lincoln Centre, New York and also Hedda Gabler at Stratford, Ontario.
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