The Secret Garden

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Theatre Royal’s annual large-scale Community Production brings together professionals and local children for a learning experience in a range of disciplines as they work alongside a professional team of actors, directors, designers, technicians and stage managers.

The Secret Garden, first published in 1911, is a popular children’s story set in the English countryside. Young Mary Lennox is living in India with her wealthy family when circumstances mean she is sent to live with her sad uncle in his mansion. As she initially reluctantly adapts to the new way of life she learns there are many secrets to the house and the family. As Mary uncovers the reasons behind the secrets she meets and forms friendships with other children Colin, who is disabled, and Dickon who is working class and can speak to animals, but also forms friendships with the adults in the house: Martha the maid, Mrs Medlock the Housekeeper and Ben the gardener.

This play is the first play developed with support from the Theatre Royal’s Commissioning Circle. It has been creatively adapted by Nicola Werenowska for Theatre Royal and includes the ‘Guardians’, a group of children who are the Secret Keepers, who cleverly add another dynamic to exploring secrets and when and whether they should be revealed.

The story explores many difficult themes, especially for children, however they are dealt with empathy and simplicity. There is grief, as the house has been enveloped by death for 10 years when Colin’s mother passed away, there is the importance of friendship and supporting each other and how secrets can both bind people together and split them apart, there is the complexities of family and of growing as an individual to deal with the different circumstances in life and being able to continue.

The overall performance was charming, the children were the lead characters and the young cast managed to take on the responsibility of delivering the story and its themes well. The adult actors were great characters played well, yet not overshadowing the children’s performances, which added more to the play.

Cast – Adults
Mrs Medlock – Olivia Carruthers
Mr Craven – Graeme Darling
Martha – Colette McNulty
Ben – Paul Hamilton

The children were played by two different groups, the Robins & the Roses, in order for as many children to have this experience but also to be able to have more performances. I saw the Robins and they included:

Mary –  Jasmine Briggs
Colin – Oscar Gleeson
Dickon – Dillon Bhavsar

A well-executed performance showcasing young talent in the region, it’s a lovely play and one for the whole family to enjoy.

Photo Credits: Dan Cole Media

This review first appeared on GrapevineLIVE.

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