The Secret Garden is a feel-good family musical telling a story of loss, love and the healing power of nature. It ticked all the boxes for the enthusiastic audience; cute, happy and flowing musical numbers. With a cast of almost entirely children, this play did not disappoint. It did not at any point seem amateur; rather the children added an authenticity to the acting that an adult may not have been able to produce. Alana Hinge, playing Mary Lennox, and Sam Procter, who played Colin Craven (the rotating cast changes every night), were delightfully sassy and adorable at the same time.
The adult actors were also charming, displaying a warmth towards the children that added spirit to the performance. Spirit is the key to this production. The Secret Garden is not a feat of literary or musical genius, yet every audience member surely left the theatre in a good mood. The play aimed to put a smile on the viewers’ faces, and it succeeded.
The songs are performed by some excellent solo singers, and the ghost in the house is hauntingly portrayed by Scarlet Smith, a stunning soprano whose voice was a highlight. I was still singing the main theme, ‘Come to my garden’, many hours after the final curtain. All the action took place on the small stage of the Ambassadors theatre. The set design, by Lizzie Leech, mirrored the emotions throughout the play. Starting in a desolate house, the sombre mood is set. By the end of the production, the audience is transported to a beautiful and tranquil garden, depicted by a curtain of flowers hanging from the ceiling.
The actors also advance the emotion throughout. Mary Lennox starts as a bitter, unhappy young girl, and ends as a jovial and loving one. Colin and his father Archibald experience an even more miraculous rejuvenation, one from near death and the other from an equally depleted mental state of depression. The audience arrives with the characters at a high for the finale, as they celebrate the happiness found by everyone (except perhaps, the villain of the spectacle, Dr Craven).
This version of The Secret Garden is produced by The British Theatre Academy, an organisation devoted to training young people in the performing arts. Their mission is ‘to ensure that young people have accessibility to professional training regardless of socioeconomic background’. This production was a true testament to the BTA’s work, with some powerful performances coming from the younger members of the cast.
If you’re feeling like some light relief, this adaptation of the Broadway family hit is for you.
- By Frances Hodgson Burnett (original novel), Lucy Simon (music), Marsha Norman (book and lyrics)
- By arrangement with Samuel French
- Director: Rupert Hands
- Cast: The British Theatre Academy’s young actors
- Ambassador's Theatre, London
- Until 31st August 2016
- Review by Joshua Korber Hoffman (15)
- 3 August 2016