I live near a community playhouse and this month the venue is The Secret Garden, Lucy Simon’s musical, which brings to lyrical form the story of young Mary Lennox who is orphaned by an outbreak of cholera in India and sent to England to live with her widowed uncle who lives in a

cold ancestral manor in Yorkshire. Mary briefly meets him, still mourning for the wife, Lily, who died ten years before.  Mary reminds the uncle of Lily and the recognition of this makes life with her all the harder for him to bear.  However, others in the manor welcome her youth, femininity, and warmth.   A resourceful and inquisitive girl, she soon makes two exciting discoveries. First she finds an overgrown secret garden, the favourite of her aunt and locked up since her death. Second, that she has a cousin, Colin, a sickly lad who has been told he must remain in bed out of the daylight at all times. Once Mary and another new friend, local lad Dickon, have brought the garden back to life they decide Colin must see it, a decision that will change several lives. Written in part by Jeremy Perkins {jwp@aber.ac.uk}


So last Sunday afternoon my son and I took his six year old daughters to see the performance, both of us wondering how much they would absorb and how much they might enjoy this experience.  There were times when they were shifting in their seat or complaining of hunger or thirst that I began to wonder and I think my son also began to question our choice.  But somewhere in the midst of the first act, sometime after the dreamers had completed their dance and more complex lyrics, the story began to take hold.  The girls were taken in by the gardener, the strength of many of the other players, and of course they were enchanted by Mary and her dealings with difficult life in the manor.  The story is very, very frank about death and I wondered if that would be shocking to them, but they seem to have had no hurdle with that (in their short years they have experienced death up close and intimately) and so they were not put off by the play’s darkness.

My surprise for the afternoon came when Colin was brought into the garden for the first time.  Emily happened to be sitting beside me and she reached over to get my attention as if she wanted to tell a secret and she said.  “He is going to walk, I believe he will be able to walk!”  There she had it:  the plot was hers, a secret to cherish, so early in the unfolding of the play’s drama.

But my most touching moment came at the end of the musical when Lily came back to visit her beloved husband and shared the lyrics of this beautifully written song.   So simple it was, but so true to life’s pain and suffering in the death of one’s beloved that I began to silently cry and in just a moment the tears were streaming down my cheeks.

How could I know I would have to leave you?
How could I know I would hurt you so?
You were the one I was born to love!
Oh, how could I ever know?
How could I ever know?

How can I say to go on without me?
How, when I know you still need me so?
How can I say not to dream about me?
How could I ever know?
How could I ever know?

Forgive me.
Can you forgive me
And hold me in your heart,
And find some new way to love me
Now that we’re apart?
How could I know I would never hold you?
Never again in this world, but oh,
Sure as you breathe, I am there inside you,
How could I ever know?
How could I ever know?

The reply:

How can I hope to go on without you?
How can I know where you’d have me go?
How can I bear not to dream about you?
Oh, how can I let you go?

Oh, dear Lewis, how can I let you go?