THEATRE REVIEW: The Secret Garden, 30/11/2010, The Rep (Birmingham)

The classic children’s novel by Frances Burnett is brought to life this Christmas season at the Birmingham Rep.

For those who don’t recall this childhood gem, the story revolves around young Mary Lennox, a sullen, contrary girl, orphaned in India, and sent to reside in Mistlewaite Manor, a dark and foreboding place on the Yorkshire Moors. It is here that the magical tale begins, with all the ingredients to captivate audiences of adults and children alike.

The musical numbers really add a West End feel to a production that is as good as any based in london. It is hard to pick out any performance that stand out, as the entire cast were phenomenal. Though a special mention must go to the lead Amy Lennox, whose portrayal of Mary from a disagreeable to happy and spirited child really draws the audience in. I for one was spellbound, for a little over two hours and as was my companion.

Martha Sowerby’s  “skipping song” elicits a cheer from the crowd, as I’m sure many are took back to the school playground. And there are even a couple of comedic moments from Dicken and gardener Ben Weatherstaff as he attempts to climb into the garden.

A collection of storytellers take the audience through the tale and really bring the show to life, with their delightful northern accents in keeping with the setting. We see Mary make friends with local lad Dicken, and a very chirpy robin. Together they discover a secret garden in the grounds of the manor, but how will they get through it’s locked gate? And what other mysteries does Mistlewaite Manor hold?

A mention must go the creative team behind the staging of the show. The back drop of the manor really sets the scene perfectly, and in combination with the revolving stage really gives a sense of space and the vastness of the great house. Even the cast become part of the stage as they form corridors for Mary to rush down.

Among a sea of pantomimes and the usual Christmas productions, “The Secret Garden” truly stands out. If you treat the family to one show this Christmas season, this has to be the one to watch!

Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Kim Harrell

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