Saturday, 16 February 2013

The Secret Garden - review

Written by: Natasha O'Neill (@natashaoh)

King's Head Theatre, London 

An orphaned little girl moved from India to England; a man so damaged with grief he can't bear to stay within his own home and care for his son and niece; a garden once forgotten, left to die, brought to life again. The Secret Garden in Concert tells the tale of Mary Lennox, who is to live with her uncle after the tragic loss of her parents. The back of an Islington pub is perhaps the last place you'd expect to find such a tale, but whilst the space is not entirely transformed into a flourishing garden, the fake flowers, hanging ivy and fairy lights speak of a kind of kitsch innocence that often seems to have been lost. They tell a story of childhood, loss, and the rekindling of hope.

Mary Lennox, played by Ana Martin, is wonderfully obnoxious and endearing. Her temperament plays off perfectly against Alexander Evan's exquisite portrayal of Archibald Craven, whose pain at the loss of his wife is almost palpable. As Yorkshire born and bred brother and sister Martha and Dickon, Rachel McCormick and Jordan Lee Davies are both energetic bursts of zeal, delivering strong vocal performances. Davies in particular oozes so much charm and charisma that the audience, like Mary, cannot help but be drawn to him. Freddie Davies, who starred in the original RSC production of The Secret Garden, reprises his role of Ben Weatherstaff the gardener, a wise, no-nonsense man who is also warm, funny and unapologetically blunt. Zac Donovan gives an excellent performance as bratty, reclusive Colin, striking the balance between a childlike temperament and maturity beyond his years.

The cast using the space behind the audience, as well as the three entrance doors for their exits, the piece gains an almost dreamlike quality that works very well, especially since so much of the story is told in flashbacks, memories, and fantasies. It is a charming production that whisks you away as soon as the band begins to play and the actors take to the stage - perhaps not to a Yorkshire moor or to a secret garden, but to your childhood. To a place where, as in a child's eye, magic and mystery can be found in everything. Director Matthew Gould has created a tender, bewitching piece powerful enough to reach out and touch you.

This production runs on Sundays and Mondays until 17th March 2013.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why is this only a three star? What was wrong with it that isn't detailed here?