Thomas W. Hodgkinson

The Secret Garden

Adapted Jessica Swale
Theatre Royal, York

The staging is stark at first. An imposing quoin of translucent metallic sheets is flanked by silver birches, which it reflects, conjuring a forest. In a coup de théâtre, this will blossom to reveal the primary plot twist of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic children’s novel, revived in this charming adaptation by Jessica Swale. The reverse-Genesis sees spoilt orphan Mary (elfin Ella Dunlop) arriving at forbidding Misselthwaite Manor on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors. With the encouragement of her Adam, fresh-faced local boy Dickon (Matthew Durkan), Mary will find her way back into Eden, in the form of the garden that was shut up by the lord of the manor (Chris Jack) in mourning for his true love. Burnett really works the garden metaphor, but you’ll be hard put to stop a smile spreading as the wild roses bloom, the animals (portrayed by puppetry) frolic and the valetudinarian heir, Colin (a very funny Steven Roberts), throws aside his crutches and staggers to his feet. By the end of this wholesome entertainment, you may feel like doing the same.