Show review by Julia Pattison - The Secret Garden at York Theatre Royal

Ella Dunlop as Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden. Photograph by Ian Hodgson.
Ella Dunlop as Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden. Photograph by Ian Hodgson.

York Theatre Royal is hosting Theatre by the Lake’s excellent production of The Secret Garden.

This enduring classic children’s novel by France Hodgson Burnett is over one hundred years old, and has truly stood the test of time.

Jessica Swale has adapted the story for stage, and has particularly focused on ten year old orphaned Mary Lennox’s feelings of being an outsider, and what she learns about herself and the world around her.

Ella Dunlop was excellent in her role of this vulnerable child, and we enjoyed seeing her change from being a spoilt, petulant brat, to a caring friend, who in turn found the key to happiness too.

Director Liz Stevenson, along with her talented team of creatives has really tapped into the power of imagination; there were some really dark, Gothic moods created at times, balanced by joyful scenes featuring some delightful puppets (created by Steve Tiplady) such as the robin, and squirrel.

The set design by Lily Arnold took your breath away; harsh, metallic exteriors revealed a hidden secret garden that grew in size and intensity until it burst into full bloom after being nurtured.

All the while, different moods were created by George Dennis’ Sound Design, and Barnaby Race’s wonderful original music, showing us how the inhabitants of Misselthwaite Manor were freed by the healing powers of nature.

The friendship that grew between Mary, Dickon (Matthew Durkan) and Colin (Steven Roberts) was a joy to watch, as was the relationship between gruff, but warm hearted gardener Ben Weatherstaff (Keith Bartlett)and Mary.

The Bollywood ending bringing Indian sounds and magic into the play was an inspired idea; a wonderful way to celebrate the power of love.