Angel Exit recreated Frances Hodgeson Burnett's hundred-year-old tale The Secret Garden.
I always feel trepidation when facing a favourite story interpreted anew, but this highly entertaining and very moving performance brought out both shade and light with equal energy, showing the traumas of loss as well the message of nature’s magical power to heal. If you haven't read the book, it's about a child's journey from angry isolation to the heart of a reunited family through her own determination and the rising sap of nature – kind-of Back To The Future reconceived by Lawence and the Brontes, darkly dramatic and timelessly satisfying. This version is written by Tamsin Fessey and Lynne Forbes (also playing good-angel Martha, the maid) and told by a fantastic cast of five fast-moving performers who can concoct anything from a train to a houseful of memories simply by clever movement and hypnotic imagination. All were great, especially Simon Carroll-Jones who is bizarrely convincing as both grim housekeeper and neurotic little boy, and Ashleigh Cheadle as Mary, looking like a sour Alice tumbled into a bleak Wonderland of terrible secrets.
Despite the inherent darkness there's a joyful message about resilience and recovery here, and this enchanting production delivers joy in wheelbarrowfuls. To be picky, I'd have preferred it if feisty Mary had been less swamped at the end by the males, if the animal puppets had looked less play-group made, and if there’d been less reliance on ragged strips of daubed sheeting to convey the miraculous secret garden - but the superb performances and imaginative exuberance of this fantastic group overcame any quibbles.
A garden of delights - and still touring this area & beyond till April. Do go see.
Black Swan Open Art exhibition and competition is currently showing some amazing works, ranging from exquisite to startling. Prizes have already been awarded but there the 'public vote' winner is still up for grabs. Here's Annemarie Blake's wintry landscape and one of the stuffed animals by Dorcas Casey who won the Town Council prize and sees her process as developing 'fleeting glimpses of the unconscious' into something tangible. Which is a good function for any artist.