Review of London Children’s Ballet The Secret Garden

Photography by ASH

Founded in 1994 as a charity to give up to 50 children (aged between nine and 16) the opportunity to work towards a West End Performance, London Children’s Ballet (LCB) is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2024. This year’s cohort of budding young performers, selected solely on the basis of talent (through rigorous rounds of audition), deliver performances with admirable professionalism and panache. 

This year LCB’s show is a revival of its much-loved The Secret Garden, an adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book, first performed by the company in 2013. It follows the classic tale of the spoilt young orphan Mary Lennox, whose charmed life in colonial India is shattered when her mother and ayah succumb to cholera. She travels to England to live with her uncle, the formidable Archibald Craven. In his imposing, draughty Yorkshire manor, she makes friends, meets her invalid cousin, Colin, and brings a neglected garden back to life. 

12-year-old Constance Rauly, returning to LCB after her debut in Snow White last year, takes on the role of Mary, which is no mean feat: she is on stage for almost the entire 100 minutes of the ballet, and in addition to dancing, has the responsibility of miming the story. She was superlative in the role – technically supremely assured, and utterly convincing in her characterisation. 

Act 1 opens with Mary’s birthday party, which features large groups of children (playing party guests, attendants and entertainers), all beautifully at ease with Erico Montes’ choreography in this large ensemble number, which incorporates gestures from Indian dance. Even the youngest children perform with total assurance and clear relish, and there is prodigious talent in evidence on the stage. Particularly noteworthy is 14-year-old Anna Carey, playing Mary’s self-absorbed mother, who demonstrated mature technique and expressive, effortlessly graceful arms. 

Act II is set in the Craven manor and its garden. Ensemble numbers include Wuthering Winds and Spring Winds, Butterflies, Roses and Petals; but there are also solos for Mary’s new friends, including the young maid Martha (Blandine Ploquin, 13), her brother Dickon, who becomes Mary’s friend and helper (the arresting Joshua Moisey, 13) and cousin Colin (Frederic de Almeida Whitehouse, 13), whom Mary draws out of his sick room and into the garden. Ellie Henderson, 14, gave a promising and spirited performance as The Robin. 

LCB’s production values are of West End calibre, with detailed sets, thoughtful staging, elaborate costumes and atmospheric lighting; and the ballet is performed to Artem Vassiliev’s score with a live orchestra under Philip Hesketh’s capable baton. The ballet offers plenty of opportunities for the entire cast to shine, not only in the solo roles, but in impeccably rehearsed ensemble numbers, under the direction this year of Jenna Lee. It is a charming show, and both of my daughters (aged seven and five) watched it with rapt attention throughout. It is utterly uplifting and engaging, and the talent that these young dancers possess bodes well for the future of British ballet. 

Photography by ASH
Photography by ASH

Elisabeth Rushton

Elisabeth has over 15 years of experience as a luxury lifestyle and travel writer, and has visited over 70 countries. She has a particular interest in Japan and the Middle East, having travelled extensively around Saudi Arabia, Oman, Jordan, and the UAE. A keen skier, she has visited over fifty ski resorts around the world, from La Grave to Niseko. She writes about a broad spectrum of subjects...(Read More)

Related Articles

Around the web