Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

secret top

Adele Marszalek played Mary and was quite simply superb

The Secret Garden

The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


On a wintry night across the Midlands region, The Nonentities took on the mystical story of The Secret Garden, a stage adaption by Sylvia Ashby of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 novel.

Very little is known about the development of this often dark and brooding English country house tale. However Burnett once did describe the novel to friends as "an innocent thriller of a story" and one that she thought of "one of her own best finds."

In her own life, Burnett was no stranger to the kinds of raw experiences that her central character in the story, the young girl Mary Lennox, comes to suffer. The loss of a parent at an early age, shipped off reluctantly to another strange country, having to make new friends and the loneliness of an austere childhood. 

In The Secret Garden a young girl Mary, is sent to an isolated manor House in Yorkshire, owned by her uncle. The move is under duress after she has been shipped from India following the death of her parents. Her uncle too is under a cloud of mourning, after losing his wife in an accident and so he has little to do with her on her arrival.


The oft forgotten backstage crew turning their hand to horticulture to sew a garden

She’s spoiled, angry and bitter at her life; having no real friends, until one day she discovers an out of bounds and uncared for Secret Garden. She vows to bring life back to it and in turn rejuvenates more than the dying plants, but the lives of everyone around her. 

The Nonentities seem to have also been planting seeds of their own as they have now among their number some excellent young actors, who were central to the success of this performance.

Adele Marszalek played Mary and quite simply was superb in handling this key role. The shift needed from Marys angry arrival at the Manor house to her gradual delight in being alive as her Secret garden grows, was handled with focus and a real sense of joy.

Although the production suffered a few first night nerves, it seemed that when another fellow young actor, A Field joined her in the second act, playing the sickly son Colin Craven, that the pair relaxed into a very competent performance. During their first meeting the pair commanded the stage alone and the production certainly grew in confidence.

Another young man Thomas Powell played Dickon, Mary’s gardening guru and again delivered a very solid performance.

When the play did falter a couple of times, it was the confident stride and delivery of Rebecca Wilbrooke as the house maid Martha, Mary’s one friendly acquaintance, that rescued the action. Martha’s upbeat and friendly manner added a sense of real compassion and understanding for the young girl’s troubled life.

Patrick Bentley provided great support as the gardener Ben as did Pamela Meredith as the stern and spiteful Mrs Medlock hell bent on bringing Mary into her line of disciplined thinking.

Emma Preece as the Nurse, Chris Kay as the suspiciously motivated Doctor, and Jane Williams as Mrs Appleby all played their part in making this production a great success. A little mention too goes to Beth Dalton and her friendly Robin.

Director Richard Taylor and the team had also created a very adaptable stage set that handled with ease the numerous locations jn which the story is set. Many of the scenes were underscored with well-chosen music and for once this all added to, rather than detracted from the atmosphere and poignancy of this story of hope and renewed growth.

It’s great to see these young actors working alongside the well-established Nonentities team and the experience can only serve them in the furthering their own skill, whilst serving as the new green shoots for the future of this talented company. To 04-12-21. 

Jeff Grant


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