Fringe Box



Theatre Review: The Secret Garden At The Mill Studio

Published on: 28 Jul, 2016
Updated on: 28 Jul, 2016

By Ferenc Hepp

The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre main stage is taking a summer break currently for building works, however there is still some theatre to be seen in the Mill Studio with the Youth Theatre’s production of The Secret Garden.

It was a full house for the world premiere on Wednesday evening this week (July 27), for this original adaptation, based on the original novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, adapted and directed by Lucy Betts.

Tilly Bradley as Mary in The Secret Garden.

Tilly Bradley as Mary in The Secret Garden.

The music was composed by David Perkins who is also musical director and plays the keyboard on the side of the stage as the only musical accompaniment. I must compliment David at this stage, as I thought the music was charming, gentle, appropriate, and accompanied the show perfectly without distracting from it or without taking centre stage.

The story is based on a young girl who was born in India, cared for by only servants.

Following her parents’ death she is sent to Yorkshire to live in Misselthwaite Manor with her uncle, where she is told to keep to herself and not be of any bother to anyone.

However, she eventually hears a story about a secret walled garden where nobody had been for the past 10 years and thanks to a friendly maid and a robin redbreast that she befriends, she gets access to this magical place.

Ted Hayes and Molly Fraser in The Secret Garden.

Ted Hayes and Molly Fraser in The Secret Garden.

Eventually she also discovers that she has a cousin living in a hidden bedroom, confined to a wheelchair as he hasn’t been allowed to walk for years, but being able to access this secret garden means he can be outside and mobile again, and it all ends happily ever after with him being able to not just walk, but run once he had received his freedom.

This is a production that is transferring to the Edinburgh Fringe soon, therefore it is one hour straight through with minimal use of props, but still tells the story well.

The props consist of home-made gates that the cast operate, old fashioned suitcases and a ladder, all decorated with leaves, which all create some nice images by the way they are moved round by the cast, despite not being sure what the locked suitcases represented at the beginning of the show, but once they are opened, this becomes more obvious.

The story is quite fast paced for the first half of the show which tells Mary Lennox’s journey prior to her arriving at the Secret Garden, therefore some of the scenes finish quite abruptly before you realise what is going on, but Tilly Bradley plays her role as Mary very well, and she also has a nice singing voice which is often utilised.

Molly Fraser in The Secret Garden.

Molly Fraser in The Secret Garden.

It looks like a happy company who work well together, and praise must also go to Amy Carter who portrays Mrs Medlock, the ‘nasty’ housekeeper with suitable arrogance, Josh Penfold who has a very experienced stage voice for his age and his interpretation of Archibald Craven (the cousin in the wheelchair) is played with sentiment and maturity, and Will Haws, who handles the robin redbreast with skill and feeling, always staying in character. Some of this young cast also have to deal with a Yorkshire accent, which adds to the genuineness of the story.

The Secret Garden runs in the Mill Studio until Tuesday, August 2, with some extra performances added due to popular demand and tickets are available via the website: or by calling the box office on 01483 440000.

However, do take a cold drink in with you as it got rather sweltering in the Studio on the night I was there.

Four stars


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