Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic novel The Secret Garden is far from a fairy tale.
The book has a hidden dark side. Despite this The Secret Garden is a powerful story that extols the wonders of nature and its power to transform lives.
Liz Stevenson’s production of Jessica Swale’s richly-imagined adaptation, coupled with Lily Arnold’s imaginative design is pure enchantment. Stevenson has created a seamless, balanced and magical piece of theatre but at the same time, has not been afraid to highlight the dramatic darker side of Burnett’s novel.
The inclusion of animal puppets and specially composed music by Stevenson has been an excellent move adding an element of magic.
Lily Adam’s set design is stunningly creative. The frosty trees at the side, the mirror effect that the audience have been looking at through Act 1 opening up to reveal a vibrant garden that spreads and grows capturing all the flowers and foliage of the seasons contrasts beautifully with the starkness of Misselthwaite Manor.
The play opens in 1910 when orphan Mary Lennox arrives from India to Misselthwaite Manor on the Yorkshire Moors.
We follow Mary’s journey from a petulant frosty child to a caring young girl who unlocks the gate to the Secret Garden and changes lives.
The Secret Garden has a talented cast whose characterisations are strong and portrayed with warmth, humility and humour and pathos.
Despite three of the characters
Mary, Dickon and Colin being over twice the age of the roles they play – so skilful is their acting you don’t even notice.
Ella Dunlop’s, Mary Lennox is a typical child-of-the-Raj – snobbish, condescending and a brat who mellows amid nature and the straight-talking Yorkshire grit residents of the manor.
Matthew Durkan’s Dickon is pure gold. Steven Roberts doesn’t fall into the trap of making the invalid Colin a heavy dramatic role but adds a lightness and even humour to the part.
The Secret Garden is on at the York Theatre Royal until Saturday August 25,
Tickets: 01904 623568