FRANCES Hodgson Burnett’s 1910 novel is an undeniably ageless and emotional one, its titular garden symbolising neglect, then nurture and finally rebirth.
It appeared as a rather space-age silver place of mystery in Mary Swan’s vision, somewhere boasting swings for the orphaned Mary Lennox (a perfectly precocious Louisa Quinn), a refugee from India now in the care of her bereaved uncle and servant Martha (Ashley Christmas), and her friend Dickon (James Laurence Hunter).
As they gradually lured the falsely invalided Colin (Zoot Lynam) into the outside, nurturing and finally exposing his actual strength and vigour for all, especially his father (Paul Huntley-Thomas), to see, hearts melted along with the latter’s.
Other expert hands were at work, too: Paul Wild’s accompanying music was also performed on stage by Zoot and by current gap year placement QMC student Stuart Dimond. It was hard not to be transfixed by the amazing sound of the hang drum which created a fantastically otherworldly sound on an instrument which resembled, more than anything, a wok lid.
It’s not disparaging any of them to say that none of it would have worked so well if it were not for the puppets of Nick Ash. He created the crucial robin who initially led Mary to the garden of Colin’s dead mother, Dickon’s fantastic fox friend – who also acted as our narrator – and outstanding umbrella crows, brought to live by the impeccable cawing of James, Stuart and co.
Extract from The Basingstoke Gazette 4/10/12