Agnieszka Holland, the director of Europa Europa, creates a blood-quickening Holocaust drama about Poles who were hidden in the sewers. The Secret Garden is not so secret, after film and TV, this triple Tony award winning show rolled into Edinburgh and shows the packed Edinburgh audience what family entertainment is all about. With music from Lucy Simon and lyrics by Marsha Norman, this adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book is brought to life with a cacophony of sound fit to raise the dead.
Sophie Kavanagh and Toby Hughes, playing the child leads, Mary Lennox and Colin Craven respectively, are more terrific finds from Erskine Stewart’s Melville’s Performing Arts Programme which has seen over 600 performances in professional musicals and operas. This film adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett's beloved novel -- a childhood classic -- has a broad appeal.
With ghostly apparitions on stage singing and dancing and with the back story of death skilfully woven into the main storyline the tale of the orphan Mary Lennox’s new life in Yorkshire in a tactile and stylish way.
Whilst Casper Phillipson as Uncle Archie  brought the perfect level of hopelessness to the role and the looks of a young Robert Redford that should see Broadway calling him.


Neither talking down to children nor pandering to their parents, The Secret Garden functions something like a fairy tale in the way in which we all can latch onto different aspects of meaning during different stages of our lives and also in the way in which primordial and psychosexual concerns are made palpable in narratively distanced and socially acceptable terms. With an excellent set from Francis O’Conner the immense job of turning the stage from India to Yorkshire and back again is mesmerising . Like a fairy tale, we can, over time, return to the story and experience fresh meanings, conflicts and insights.
It is also fitting that a first draft was written years ago for Coppola's American Zoetrope by Carroll Ballard as a follow-up to his previous children's tale The Black Stallion. Many script rewrites later, The Secret Garden emerges as a deserving successor to The Black Stallion's mantle of classy kid entertainment.
But the chief horticulturist of The Secret Garden is director Holland, here making her debut as a director of an American, rather than a foreign, production. The adults in the audience are likely to catch on to all the film's implications; the little ones are more likely to sense feelings of ominous foreboding and chaste pleasure.


Holland's visual strategies enhance the thematics of burgeoning emotions with its fragrant natural images of sprouting, blossoming, seasonal cycles and the all-encompassing sky. Narratively, these rejuvenating images are set against images of an earthquake, the dank, repressive household, and the loneliness of people without love. And Holland has maintained her interest in the dilemmas of childhood on the horns of adulthood.
The children's performances are the biggest drawback to The Secret Garden as their earnestness occasionally gets in the way of the dramatic illusion. Cast in a classic Dame Judith Anderson-type repressive housekeeper role, Smith's nuanced abilities turn what ordinarily would have been a one-dimensional villain into a rich, sympathetic character.



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