The Secret Garden

Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

The Maddermarket is one of Norwich's most intimate spaces, but for this production of Frances Hodgson Burnett's children's classic, the small stage was transformed by Paul Stimpson's wonderfully innovative set design.

Reflecting the children's own emotional journeys, the settings of oppressive and sickly colonial India and the stuffy English country manor house are slowly folded away to reveal the rich and vibrant space at the heart of the tale, the flowering garden itself.

Also boasting a beautiful score and some elaborately constructed animal puppets that certainly appealed to the younger members of the audience, this production has plenty to catch the eye and the ear.

Sarah Whiteman turns in a suitably petulant performance as Mary, at her best when sparring with the sickly and precious Colin, played by Bijan Arasteh, who sadly didn't quite capture some of the more sympathetic aspects of the neglected boy's nature.

They are ably supported by a nicely understated Chloe Burt, as Martha (her Yorkshire accent by far the most convincing of the piece) and some good comedy from Stimpson himself as Weatherstaff, the gruff gardener who slowly thaws, succumbing like the others to the transforming magic of the garden.

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It's a suitably heart-warming story, in tune with the festive season, and, despite being essentially children's theatre, this adaptation easily appeals to a wider audience.

t The Secret Garden continues until January 2; www.maddermarket.co.uk

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