Interview with the cast of The Secret Garden

A cast of professional actor/musicians tells SoGlos what they love about Gloucestershire, as they prepare for a month-long run in The Secret Garden at The Barn Theatre in Cirencester.

The cast of The Secret Garden at The Barn Theatre, performing 'Wick'
The cast of The Secret Garden at The Barn Theatre, performing 'Wick'

Enjoying a cup of coffee and taking a well-earned break from rehearsals, the London-based cast of The Secret Garden met with our reporter at Cirencester’s New Brewery Arts to talk all-things Gloucestershire, fresh air and how they’re already sad at the prospect of leaving the county behind.

It’s the first time that a professional production has launched at The Barn Theatre, how have rehearsals been going?

Sue Appleby: It’s going really well! We did two weeks of rehearsals in London, and then we came up to Cirencester and actually being here and being immersed in it, working at The Barn has taken rehearsals to a different level, which is lovely. More intense, and just lovely to be in the space that we’re going to be performing in.
Alex James Ellison: Yes, it’s been really nice working on a piece which could actually have been set in the area we’re working in. So, walking to rehearsals each day, you kind of imagine what it would be like for the characters to live in that rural setting that The Secret Garden is set in.

You’re all professional actors based in London currently, how have you found the change in pace, coming to Cirencester?

Celeste De Veazey: It’s a really nice pace of life. It’s great to actually feel like you can breathe for a bit and relax and not have to be angry at everyone! [Laughs] That’s what I’ve found, that I’m not angry during my commute, and I really like it!
Minal Patal: I think for me, one of the best things about being here is, partly because the cast is living together as well, there’s something about staying in one place that’s brought us together as a cast. It’s really feeding into the show. I was only saying to someone yesterday that since I’ve been here I’m just waking up really happy. When the sun comes out, we’ll be flying!

What’s been your favourite thing about Gloucestershire so far?

Jaimie Pruden: It’s just so gorgeous here. Every day I wake up and feel so lucky to be here, because it’s just such stunning scenery. When you live somewhere for a long time you can forget how gorgeous a place is, you don’t see it through the same lens as someone who are just arriving, so I think I’m still very starry-eyed about how pretty Gloucestershire is.

I’m waking up really happy!

Sue Appleby: We’re so lucky that we’ve got beautiful windows that open out onto a lake, and we see swans every morning and ducks. It’s really special, when you’re used to seeing concrete buildings and lots of roads and cars.
Celia Cruwys Finnigan: Also, the air quality is noticeably amazing here! I got off the bus from London and I was like ‘Oh! That’s what air should smell like!’
Celeste De Veazey: And it feels different too! It’s crazy.
Jamie Ross: Yep, even my bogies are green again! [All laugh and groan]

What can you tell us about the production? It’s very different to the childhood tale that people remember.

Jaimie Pruden: It’s the same story, but the musical was created in the early 90s and so it’s a little bit dated, stylistically. So I think we’ve worked to give it a more contemporary feel, and we have a company full of actor/musicians; I think that gives it a really interesting feel. It adds to the sense of community and ensemble, which is really nice. Actually, that’s something else I’ve really liked about Cirencester and The Barn Theatre, specifically, it feels like such a family kind of place. There’s people from the town coming and pitching in and working at the theatre, it’s really nice to slot in and see it all come together.

This is the first production to run at The Barn Theatre. As professionals coming to a new theatre, what are your thoughts on the venue?

Alex James Ellison: There’s very few theatres, especially in Gloucestershire, that put on professional, in-house productions. We’re all a cast from London who’ve come to put on this show and we’re here for six weeks, which is a long run for such a small venue.
Sue Appleby: The fact this production has been created by The Barn Theatre is very exciting. Rather than it being a theatre which acts as a reviving house and we’re just touring around. This is very specific to this venue and this location. That’s been a huge starting point for creating the production. But I do think London would be thrilled to see this production.
Celeste De Veazey: Yes, completely. It feels to me that The Secret Garden is the scale of a West End production, except it has a real heart to it that will fit here in Gloucestershire.

You all seem to get along so well! What’s it going to be like when this one-month run comes to an end?

Celia Cruwys Finnigan: We’re not going to be ready for that I don’t think! [laughs] Sometimes you start a show and you know you’re going to be really sad to finish it. That’s how this has been for me. After the first day of rehearsals I was already feeling sad about the end of April!
Minal Patal: Hopefully it’ll go on somewhere else after Cirencester.
Sue Appleby: That would be lovely. There’s something very personal about this production, because we’ve all contributed so much to the score. It’s our baby!
Celeste De Veazey: We just want to stay here doing this for the rest of our lives!

For more information see The Secret Garden, call (01285) 648255, or visit directly.

By Melissa Hamblett

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