Review: The Secret Garden cultivates seasonal joy

Colette McNulty (right) in The Secret Garden with Steph Reynolds as Martha the maid

Colette McNulty (right) in The Secret Garden with Steph Reynolds as Martha the maid

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The Secret Garden

Yet another wonderfully crafted joint production between Proper Job Theatre Company and Square Chapel: a charmingly appropriate and relevant performance of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s post-Victorian story of an orphaned and isolated English girl, returned from India to live with her kindly, yet unhappy, uncle and his sickly son in a large manor house on’t Yorkshire Moors, writes Derek Greenwood.

Discovering a locked and secluded garden, inaccessible since the death of her uncle’s wife, Mary is intrigued to access this place of life and calm. Exciting the interest of her cousin and a local lad, Dickon, in the garden’s potential and with the help of a friendly robin, they gently move every member of the household towards a more positive and intuitive response to the life and nature around them.

With a subtle but affecting piano accompaniment supplemented by a small chorus of young singers, an excellent cast gently meandered through the rebuilding of relationships and a restructuring of the class divides of the time. This was not a piece of historical post-Victorian documentary smeared with lashings of painful morality, but more a natural return to seeing sense in real values and meaningful relationships and in splendidly reasonable contrast to our high-speed world of little dialogue and unrealistic consumerist excess – in other words, a great story for Christmas time.

One must mention the astonishing and absurdly consistent performance of Colette McNulty as Mary which provided the “engine” for this piece together with inspired lighting and set “magic”.

Fantastic, local, festive theatre - a must see! It is staged on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (December 27 to 29) at 2.30pm and 6.30pm at Square Chapel, Halifax (box office telephone 01422 349422).