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THE SECRET GARDEN Royal George Theatre/Shaw Festival
Jun 29, 2024, 17:26
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Shaw Festival
Through October 13
THE SECRET GARDEN Royal George Theatre/Shaw Festival

By Augustine Warner

When the audience rose to cheer for the Shaw Festival's production of "The Secret Garden," the show's biggest fans couldn't be seen.
They were the kids who filled the Royal George Theatre to see this classic story from novelist Frances Hodgson Burnett and who were blocked from seeing the cast by adults.
It didn’t seem to matter to the young viewers, they were happy to be there and quiet as the story unfolded on stage.
Shaw stalwarts Jay Turvey and Paul Sportelli mixed the novel’s story with music, mostly of the “traditional” music sort, all worked out on a wonderful and flexible set from Beyata Hackborn.
As suggested by the title, it’s about a garden.
And, it’s a secret garden, known only to the staff and not to the young man who will eventually inherit, Colin (Gryphyn Karimloo).
The core of the tale is the orphan Mary (Gabriella Sundar Singh), sent back to England from India after her parents died of cholera.
She’s sent off to one of those rural houses to be cared for by the staff, since her closest surviving relative is never there, what might be a haunted house because of the strange sounds which echo around its halls and into the surrounding gardens.
She meets the staff, all of whom deny hearing anything, and she meets the birds which fill the area.
That’s how Mary finds the key to the walled secret garden and gets inside and realizes how overgrown it is.
Gardener Ben Weatherstaff (David Adams) says he’s been told by the dragon-like housekeeper Mrs. Medlock he will be fired if he goes inside, so, he’s limited to reaching down from the top of the wall for some gardening.
Only when Mary discovers her noisy and angry cousin Colin does the story begin to assemble.
Colin has been confined to his bed all of his life, with his uncle Dr. Craven (David Alan Anderson) ruling the boy is too sick to get out of his bed.
With help from young gardener Dickon (Drew Plummer), Mary gets Colin down to the secret garden his mother built and his father closed off after the death of the youth’s mother.
Colin starts to learn how to walk, with opposition from Dr. Craven.
He wins and the adults give in and open the garden.
All of this is told with the song suffused in the show, going all the way back to the early stages of English, the song “Sumer is Icumen In.”
Others are more recent, “Scarborough Fair,” “Blue Bells, Cockle Shells,” “Little Robin Redbreast” and “Whither Must I Wander.”
Director Turvey has a hard-working cast since all but Gabriella Sundar Singh have two parts.
There must be elaborate costumes changes arranged backstage.
What Turvey also has is Hackborn’s wonderful set.
It’When the audience rose to cheer for the Shaw Festival’s production of “The Secret Garden,” the show’s biggest fans couldn’t be seen.s a tall, curved glass wall painted to look out on the desolate moor on which the home and secret gardens exist, day or night.
Different panels can be opened to back up different elements of the plot.
It’s important in making this show work magically, particularly for those young audience members.
It’s all part of the package which makes “The Secret Garden” such a wildly successful show.

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