The Secret Garden: 'It's about allowing yourself to make a connection with nature and all the living things around you'
- Kelly Apter
- 31 January 2020
Rosalind Sydney brings the healing magic of Frances Hodgson Burnett's iconic garden to present-day concerns in a new Scottish adaptation
It's over 100 years since Frances Hodgson Burnett's heroine first found the key to a magical secret garden. During that time, the tale of young orphan Mary Lennox has been turned into a film, TV programme and several theatre shows. And now, Burnett's novel has been lovingly relocated to rural Scotland, in a new adaptation by Scottish theatremaker, Rosalind Sydney.
A fan of the book since childhood, Sydney was keen to highlight the relevancy of Mary's situation in today's world. Whereas Burnett's Mary was born into an affluent British family in India, then sent back to Yorkshire after her parents die, Sydney's character has more in common with asylum seekers fleeing their homeland. 'It's not set in the early 1900s anymore, and now Mary is escaping a war-torn city,' she explains. 'We see her make this perilous journey at the start to go and live with her uncle in Scotland.'
In the original, Mary is deemed a 'difficult child', largely because her parents show no interest in her. In this new version, the reason for Mary's behaviour is crystal clear. 'She's traumatised after having this terrifying experience,' says Sydney. 'So the story is about finding family and home, and allowing yourself to make a connection with nature and all the living things around you.'
Once she enters the secret garden, Mary's life begins to change, and it's that sense of excitement that Sydney is keen to capture. 'It's such a great story and one I've been really attached to since I was a kid. And I think it's still really exciting for an audience today with secret doors, keys that you don't know where they lead to, and animals you have to follow who tell you a secret. There's so much magic and mystery, but the story is also really relevant.'
Platform, Glasgow, Fri 7 & Sat 8 Feb; Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 11 & Wed 12 Feb, and touring.