The Secret Garden Experience – Wizard Presents/ Watford Palace Theatre/ Oxford Playhouse

Reviewer: Kate Lovell

Adaptor: Danyah Miller after The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett  

Audio Director: Dani Parr

Landing on the doormat is a neat package filled with brown paper parcels all tied up with string. Receiving exciting post is surely on most people’s list of their favourite things?

The Secret Garden Experience begins with the receipt of a box of delights designed to be enjoyed over eight days, listening to one episode, and taking part in themed activities each day. All you need is an internet connection and a willingness to get crafty with a whole host of creative activities carefully curated to complement the famous children’s classic.

Danyah Miller of Wizard Presents has both adapted and performed eight audio episodes of The Secret Garden which are available to listen to online, each roughly 25 minutes long. To gain access, you must first input a unique code, pleasingly presented attached to a metal key, the look and feel of which will pique nostalgia for anyone of a certain age, back to the days of Clark’s Magic Steps shoes.

Each audio episode is linked to a real-world activity with enough materials provided for two people to take part. These activities are exquisitely presented, with the piece de resistance of the final activity being secreted in a hidden compartment. The graphic design by Steph Pyne is gorgeous. Watercolour greens and blues with delicately hand drawn flowers on the enclosed instruction cards wonderfully evoke the luxuriousness of a blooming garden space.

An abundance of thought, care and passion has gone into creating this in-home experience and there’s a wealth of material to explore that could easily keep a family happy for most of the upcoming half-term. As well as the packages, the website gives suggestions of games to play as a family, interesting facts relating to each chapter of the story and digital downloads including puzzles and colouring pages all designed specifically for this experience.

Listening to the audio, it’s unclear why this adaptation and why now. It would be exciting to hear a greater diversity of voices for those listening to have more chance of hearing their own worlds reflected in the drama. As an in-home experience there’s scope for this to reach audiences who would face barriers to attending an in-real-life performance and to have elevated voices from lesser heard communities would have enhanced the relevancy of a 2021 adaptation of a story first published in 1911.

It’s the thoughtfully curated craft pursuits and the encouragement to explore and enjoy the nature in our own back gardens that steal the show in The Secret Garden Experience.

Runs here from 31 May 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

Beautifully curated experience

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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