Sideshow's final performance

SO, farewell then, to Sideshow Theatre Company, which rounded off 12 years of productions at the KMT last week with The Secret Garden, a nostalgic, wistful piece that is peopled with the dead, but reminds us most forcefully that life goes on. This final p

SO, farewell then, to Sideshow Theatre Company, which rounded off 12 years of productions at the KMT last week with The Secret Garden, a nostalgic, wistful piece that is peopled with the dead, but reminds us most forcefully that life goes on.

This final production had all the Sideshow trademarks - great voices, strong acting and spot-on timing. And it had the Sideshow sparkle, augmented in this case by two stunning child actors.

Stacey Cockram was the lynchpin of the piece as Mary Lennox, the 11-year-old whisked from India after her adoring parents die of cholera to the chilly Yorkshire mansion of her uncle by marriage, Archibald Craven.

The first signs are not good. The tortured and disabled Archibald, whose own child, Colin (the assured Matthew McDonnell) has been poorly since his birth (and the death of his mother Lily), is in no mood to take on another dependent and makes it clear.


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Mary is left to roam the grounds until, with the help of a friendly servant, Dickon, she finds the key to Lily's secret garden. In unlocking this, she unlocks a new life for everyone, along with hope of happiness.

Whether berating her uncle for his lack of care, or singing with the clearest, sweetest voice, Stacey as Mary showed herself to be full of confidence and charisma.

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This was an incredibly strong performance by a young actor, and the audience loved it. Stacey has that vital ability to remain in character at all times, and have her face show it.

She never allowed her attention to lapse, and her face mirrored everything that was going on around her.

Matthew as Colin was similarly strong. He, too, has great charm and confidence and a sweet, clear voice.

Lee Thompson was strong and convincing as Archibald, and Jason Thorpe, who possesses a very fine voice, was good as his brother Neville,

I enjoyed Phil Rowlands's spirited performance as the nature-loving Dickon, and Vicki Lyons was lovely as Martha, the maid who shows Mary a mother's love.

John Gadd made a lovely Weatherstaff, the estate gardener who gets Mary interested in plants.

Among the cast of ghosts from the past, it was good to see Victoria Abery back on the KMT stage as Lily - this was another engaging performance from her.

How Could I Ever Know, her bittersweet duet with Archie, created many lumps in throats (including her own, I think). Sean Gillary and Katie Waller were well matched as Mary's longing parents.

The winner of a number of Tony awards, this show has some very pretty tunes by Lucy Simon, sister of singer songwriter Carly Simon.

And Marsha Norman's lyrics are very affecting. Numbers like A Bit of Earth, Where in the World and Come to My Garden are infused with nostalgia and longing.

All this the cast gave us, through their fine performances.

The show was directed, as so often in the past, by the deft hand of Phil Halpin.

Sideshow, we will miss you.

- SUE LEEMAN

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