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The Secret Garden review at Barn Theatre, Cirencester – ‘a delight’

Daniella Piper and Celeste De Veazey in The Secret Garden at Barn Theatre, Cirencester Daniella Piper and Celeste De Veazey in The Secret Garden at Barn Theatre, Cirencester
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Iwan Lewis, artistic director of the new 200-seat Barn Theatre in Cirencester, has set out his stall by opening the space with this inventive reworking of the Tony-winning musical The Secret Garden.

He sees his remit as appealing to all ages, and although Frances Hodgson Burnett`s Edwardian melodrama is ostensibly a children`s book, this family-friendly version contains a resonant message about the rehabilitating power of hope.

In particular, director Dominic Shaw has updated the story of 10-year-old Mary Lennox, whose rescue of a mysterious ruined garden becomes the balm that heals her long-lost family`s grief.

His talented group of actor-musicians have recalibrated Lucy Simon`s infectious score in full folk rock mode, and there is an ingenious use of puppets as the ghosts of the departed and the reflections of those who remain behind.

Daniella Piper brings vocal strength and a childlike tenacity to Mary Lennox, joining with Celeste De Veazey, cast as her bedridden cousin Colin, in unfolding the Hodgson Burnett theme that what`s neglected withers, what`s cared for thrives.

There is an especially stirring duet from David Haydn and Minal Patel, as Mary`s reclusive uncle Archibald and his scheming brother Neville, while American singer Jaimie Pruden is a haunting presence throughout as Colin`s late mother Lily.

Meanwhile, designer PJ McEvoy`s stunning back projections bring to life the hidden garden, where Mary finds redemption for herself and those around her.

Barn Theatre artistic director Iwan Lewis: ‘In the age of Netflix, theatre has to change its game’

Verdict
An engaging musical reimagining that converts a much-loved children`s book into a delight for all ages
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