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The Secret Garden - Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre Review

Reviewed by Amelia Bascombe
Tickets were gifted in return for an honest review.

With the sun slowing setting in the background, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is truly a dreamy location for a production like this. Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved and radical story about the magic of nature and the nature of magic is adapted in a new version by Holly Robinson (soft animals, Soho Theatre) and Anna Himali Howard (Graceland, Royal Court; Orpheus, Opera North).

Photo by Alex Brenner
Having never read the book, I can’t comment on the source material and how it’s relevant to the play version. In the programme, Sue Kent describes that this adaptation has ‘been changed to encompass themes of the reality of the reality of permanent disability’. The view that permanent disability can cause a parent to neglect their child is still something that happens in today’s society. This show celebrates disability and diversity, encapsulating the importance that everyone matters,and everyone has a voice. There is a consistent view from characters like Colin that disability is something to frown upon and should be locked away. The production embraces these challenges and shines light on how everyone should be treated equally and with compassion. It is a beautifully positive message to a society that still struggles with the basic concept of just being kind.

The play is led by Hannah Khalique-Brown as Mary Lennox. Mary is quite a jarring character throughout the play, and only really won me over towards the very end. I think it’s a hard character to really go over with the audience due to her early choices and lack of heart, but we are aware of why this is and the hardships she has faced. Nevertheless, I didn’t find myself entirely sympathising with her until she was faced with Colin’s father. Despite this, she is a concise protagonist and ensures the story is easy to follow as you know what to expect from her.

Colin’s introduction was a key moment in the first act, and Theo Angel was great to watch. He has impeccable comedic timing but was also gut-wrenching when he needed to be. His chemistry with Brydie Service as Dickon was endearing and their relationship blossomed wonderfully throughout the second act. The reconciliation with his father (played brilliantly by Jack Humphrey) at the end of the play was touching and affirms that those with disabilities and struggles don’t need a ‘cure’, they just need a little magic to get through every day.

Photo by Alex Brenner
Molly Hewitt-Richard’s gave my favourite performance as Martha. She was funny, and sweet, and incredibly sincere. She was definitely a light in the production, and I looked forward to her being in scenes as she balanced out some of the anger and vexation coming from other characters. Similarly, Richard Clews gave a heartwarming performance as Ben Weatherstaffand was complimented nicely in comparison to the other characters. Sharan Phyll was beautiful as a Robin can be and was incredibly charming. The rest of the cast was made up of Archana Ramaswamy as Padma, George Fletcher as Dr Craven, Amanda Hadingue as Mrs Wedlock, Avita Jay as Champa and Patrick Osbourne as Captain Lennox who all gave commanding performances.

The puppetry was an unexpected addition that went over so well. The reflection of the animals to the character portraying them was a welcomed choice. Puppetry consultant Laura Cubitt did brilliantly with how each animal looked and how seamlessly they were woven into the production; they didn’t feel out of place at all. Furthermore, set designer Leslie Travers delivers a wonderfully simplistic set, which left me wanting nothing more. The garden is beautiful and keeps on developing throughout the piece, ending colourful and inviting. 


The Secret Garden is running at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until the 20th of July. Tickets are available from

Photo by Alex Brenner

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