Young Company’s The Secret Garden a real challenge

July 20, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Theatre Orangeville’s Young Company, “hasn’t done a ‘Junior version’ of any of their productions since 2012,” commented Sharyn Ayliffe, when we were all gathered at the theatre’s rehearsal hall in East Garafaxa. The entire company was assembled, in full flood of rehearsing this mystical story.

In brief, it is about a little girl, Mary Lennox, coming to England from India, where her entire family had died of cholera. She is brought to her hostile Uncle Archibald Craven, now her guardian, living in his mansion, Misselthwaite, in Yorkshire, and who is a hunchback. Mary’s mother, Rose was the sister to Archibald’s wife, hence Mary’s Aunt Lily. Lily died giving birth to their son, Colin.

Poor Colin has been confined to his bed his whole life from his father’s irrational fear that the boy, too, will become a hunchback. The boy naturally believes himself to be an invalid and suffers deeply as a result.

Into all this sadness come the ghosts or “dreamers,” as they are called, and a magic garden. The dreamers, ghosts of Lily, Rose and others from the past, influence and cajole; they console and encourage; they are the memories to which Mary and Archibald cling.

The garden was Lily’s, left to grow into a wild state, looking overgrown here and quite dead there. The gate to the garden is locked and the local countryman, Ben, who talks to the animals, does not know where the key is.

However, a certain English robin knows and, perhaps, recognizing Mary as the right person to be allowed into the garden, shows her where the key is hidden. Inspired by the chance to reclaim the garden’s former beauty, Ben and Mary conspire to make things grow and, before too long, the garden is in bloom and the birds are welcomed back to its greenery.

Dr. Neville Craven, Archibald’s brother, tends to Colin but is the heir to the property should Colin not survive. He persuades the grief-burdened Archibald to go abroad and leave the sombre house and its afflicted inhabitants to him.

For the rest, come and see it. It is a wonderful story, based on the original 1911 novel, The Secret  Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, who proves that magic can happen.

The young people were ready and willing to talk about the show and their parts in it. A few of them were first timers with Young Company and gave some stories as to how they came there.

One was influenced by “a good friend to come and try out.”

Another’s father and family are all “in musical theatre. We go to see a musical once a month. I thought maybe they could come and see me.”

Daniel said, “I saw Les Mis and I thought, ‘me too.’”

What about the show itself and there were plenty of good answers to that: “Even though in the beginning, everybody dies, they lead to new beginnings.”

“We’re all just kids doing an amazing show – I think we do  pretty good (sic).”

“And we only have a month to do it,” added another.

“The message is love can really make a things happen and not always good…”

Set in England, as the story is, the cast is learning to speak with English accents, though it will be a challenge to teach the strange broad tones and the heavy intonations of the true Yorkshireman to at least a couple of them.

Said the philosopher in the crowd, “This show and the theatre – the secret garden is like the theatre – it’s a safe place without risking consequences that may be the case in the real world.”

Of the heroine, Mary, who decides to save Colin, as one young lady described it: “This tells how [a person] feeling very negative about life can actually come out it and learn to love life.”

And: “She [Mary] is very smart – he’s been told he can’t walk but he wants to…”

Pam Demetriou, Director of the show, remarked, “There’s a magic between life and death. The characters grow and change even within themselves.”

Looking back on Ms. Ayliffe’s observation that Young Company does not produce junior version of plays and musicals, David Nairn, furthered that notion by informing us all that last year’s Young Company production of Les Mis was the same as the Broadway (New York) production.

He said, “What everybody here is doing is the experience that is the same demands for all professional standards of excellence. They have to audition; be here on time, dedicate themselves to the production. If they didn’t want that kind of experience, they wouldn’t be here. This is an opportunity for talented young people to see what it is like in professional theatre.”

In addition, in terms of the musicality of this show, we were assured, this is not an easy show. The score is quite difficult.

Mr. Nairn summed up the attitude and approach each of them had: “If you’re not dedicated, you couldn’t be here.”

The Secret Garden is on at the Opera House from Friday, July 27 through to Sunday matinee, July 29 – four performances in all. For tickets and more information, visit the box office at 87 Broadway or the Information Centre on Buena Vista Drive at Highway 10, or to reserve call 519-942-3423 or go online to

Readers Comments (0)

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.