The Secret Garden is an oasis of tranquillity from the raucous side of the fringe in terms of its music, if not in the complicated family relationships of the plot itself. The show is based on an Edwardian children’s story by Frances Hodgson Burnett and it’s a book that those who have read it will no doubt remember fondly.
It’s about a girl called Mary, played excellently by Ellie Hitchcock-Wyatt. Mary is a pampered colonial girl living in India when her family die of cholera. She is then transported to Yorkshire where she is collected by her uncle’s housekeeper.
The little girl is informed that her uncle will not have anything to do with her as he has been mourning the loss of his wife for an extended period. The dark side of the plot is that the uncle’s brother Dr. Neville lives in the house supposedly caring for a sick nephew, Colin, who is bed-ridden and kept out of sight.
When Mary discovers her cousin by accident, the housekeeper and the not-so-good doctor dismiss her from the room while the doctor plots to send Mary off to school. The uncle has a spine deformity and has been told that he has passed on the condition to his son.
To find out how things work out and where the Secret Garden comes in then you need to join the excellent young cast of Norfolk Youth Theatre. There is a lot of music in this show and while the numbers carry the story, they are difficult to sing with only a few being what you might call catchy.
The director uses the limited space well with a lot of movement and groupings to make the most of the larger numbers. The acting is also of a high standard with credible interaction between the players whether in tender poignant places or where anger is required.
The absence of microphones is a bit of a handicap to some of these young performers in a hall with a high ceiling. There is a need to project their voices more so that the audience catch all the words. Exceptions to this are Eloise Hare, who plays Martha the maid that befriends Mary, and Alex Green who plays the devious doctor.
The pace of the piece is by nature slow, so full credit to the young cast and their production staff for holding the attention of their audience throughout. For once, this is a show for all ages.
Til 14 August, 2.50pm
£5 (conc), £7, £20 (family ticket)