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Theatre Review The Secret Garden, Salford Arts Theatre

Classic children's novel gets an excellent adaptation by Salford Theatre Company

IT TAKES courage to take a much-loved children’s classic and successfully put it on the stage but Salford Theatre Company have done just that in this recreation of the wonderful novel about children in the Edwardian period by Manchester author Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Expertly adapted by Neil Duffield, it takes audiences on a magical journey from India all the way to the Yorkshire Dales.

Ten-year-old Mary Lennox, played by the mesmerising Libby Hall, is a sickly orphan who’s transported from her home in India to live with her reclusive uncle Mr Craven. Accustomed to treating her Indian servants imperiously, she finds out that her feisty Yorkshire maid Martha, ably played by Hazel Wilson, is not so docile.

Martha, of a similar age, encourages Mary to be less selfish and more kind and she soon learns from Martha’s brother, Dickon (Matthew Forey) that much happiness can be found with friends, both human and of the feathered kind.

The book dates from 1911 but this adaptation shows that its message — the crucial role of friendship and nature in helping children find happiness in themselves themselves and in the wider world — is as important today as it was a century ago

Salford Theatre Company have done an excellent job in bringing to the stage a play that has a secret garden with not just plants and greenery but a robin who also plays a crucial role. It’s not easy bringing a Yorkshire country setting to urban Salford but the cast work hard to ensure that the audience becomes part of the natural magic.

The company is based in the heart of a council estate and at the performance I attended there were mostly local people, young and old, present. You’ll not find this at most mainstream theatres in the north west and the company deserve every credit for connecting with local audiences with such quality work.

Performances from April 18-21, box office: salfordartstheatre.com

 

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