Review: The Secret Garden
MOLLY O’CONNOR is impressed with the young performers and beautiful score in this musical adaption of a childhood classic.
The Secret Garden, Tues 28th May- Sat 6th June, ADC, 7:45pm, £14/11
The desire to spend time outdoors in nature and yet feeling trapped inside is a feeling that will no doubt resonate with many students during exam term.
For those eager to escape an evening of revision, I can’t think of anything more pleasant than heading down to the ADC and allowing yourself to be swept away in this stunning musical adaption of The Secret Garden.
The Secret Garden was adapted as a stage musical from the 1911 Frances Hodgsen Burnett novel of the same name. It tells the story of Mary, a young girl raised in the British Raj who must go and live with an uncle whom she has never met in Yorkshire after both of her parents die of cholera. Beginning the play as a sour and withdrawn girl, she and the other residents of her uncle’s home blossom as she begins to breathe life back into the gardens of the manor which have gone untended since the tragic death of her uncle’s wife.
While readers of the beloved children’s novel will certainly find plenty of familiar material in this adaption, there have certainly been changes. While the novel focuses primarily on Mary and her experiences of her new home, the musical adds much more emphasis to the adult characters. The character of Lily Craven, Mary’s deceased aunt is much more fleshed out than in the novel. This also applies to Dr Neville Craven, who has been transformed from unremarkable background character to the musical’s primary antagonist.
The young actors were excellent in this production.
Phoebe Poulter-Kerry-Sinclair really shone in her role as Mary, believably conveying Mary’s neglect and loneliness with an endearing good nature and humor. Arun Austin as Colin, Mary’s sickly cousin is also very well suited to his role, bringing the right mix of ridiculous hypochondria and genuine pathos to the role. Dickon, played by Dan Lane, was also highly charismatic and brought and infectious energy to the stage whenever he appeared.
To see performances of such a quality from such young actors was invigorating and it was clear that the audience, made up primarily of families with young children, were equally impressed.
The score of the musical was also stunning. With the songs drawing inspiration from the musical traditions of both India and rural England, The Secret Garden has a truly unique score that you’ll find yourself humming long after you’ve left the theatre.
The presence of the ‘dreamers’, the ghosts of those who died during the cholera outbreak in India, as a sort of Greek chorus during these numbers added a surreal and fantastical element to the large ensemble numbers, emphasising the subtle magic and mysticism that constantly lurks beneath the surface of the play’s main action.
Overall the nostalgia of this well-loved children’s book combined with a stunning score and talented cast made this performance an utter delight. A perfect antidote to the trials and tribulations of exam term, expect to leave the theatre with your heart thoroughly warmed.
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