The Secret Garden has now made the move to the West End and it deserves to stand proud amongst the top shows currently playing. There have perhaps been some minor changes since it’ transferred but whether it is my lack of memory or actual changes is something to be questioned !!!
The whole cast are excellent but this show belongs to 4 performers who light up the stage every time they come on and together they bring an energy and new level of emotion to the show, they are Philip Quast, Meredith Braun, Linzi Hateley and Craig Purnell.
Linzi and Craig are the brother and sister, Martha and Dickon. They are the slightly comic, light hearted friends of Mary who help this lost lonely girl find a home and friendship. Craig is a wonderfully chirpy Dickon who sees from the start the real Mary underneath her hard shell and doesn’t take offence at anything she says. Martha as well finds in Mary a friend and Linzi emulates such warmth as Martha, creating an ‘older sister’ for Mary.
Every time Philip Quast is on stage his presence and strength of performance impels you to watch him so intensely as it is a performance which is spellbinding. His voice has that wonderful ability to transfer the emotion of the character into song which, at the same time, blends with other voices but still manages to be heard alone. Meredith is just perfectly enchanting as Lily, gracefully gliding in and out of the characters lives, their constant guardian and with a voice which is just beautiful. When Philip and Meredith perform their duets (Girl who came to my valley, and How could I ever know) the intensity of their emotions reaches new heights. At the end of ‘A Girl came to my valley’ Archie cries out in anguish ‘NO’ as he is brought back the reality and in ‘How could I ever know’ as Archie kneels on the floor in tears and heart broken, Lily kneels beside him and places her hand on his heart. He reels at her touch as though a shock has been sent through his body, as though she has brought him back to life. As they sing their final duet, every time he says ‘All want is’ she tells him his place is in the garden and with Colin, as she tells him face to face ‘you must let me go’ his heart is able, at long last, to accept this.
The stress of both Archie and Neville increasingly becomes apparent where on one occasion Archie nearly hits Neville and later Neville nearly lashes out at Mary. The whole piece seems to have moved up an emotional notch from anger and love.
The supporting cast certainly provided characterisations and performances which are very strong and believable. Beneath the ‘wicked’ uncle persona in Peter’s Neville we constantly see that he his on the edge of desperation as he sees his work undone and words disobeyed . He is frightened that if Colin were to die, the blame would fall to him and that that would finally send Archie over the edge. Tamsin Egerton Dick and Eddie Brown are excellent as Mary and Colin and seem to have developed even further with their roles, working well together and creating a believable relationship. Judith Parris and Ray C Davis provided strong support as Mrs Medlock and Ben Weatherstaff.
In order to conclude I will use at least one garden reference in that this garden is blooming and may it continue to grow for along while yet.
Back to reviews