Tag Archives: Hannah Khalique-Brown



Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

THE SECRET GARDEN at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre


“With a strong ensemble cast directed tightly by Anna Himali Howard the first act was a delight”

A normal child would cry but Mary Lennox is not a “normal child” as we discover in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic children’s novel, The Secret Garden, in this new stage version by Holly Robinson and Anna Himali Howard.

1903 during the British Raj, is where we meet the 10-year-old Mary, ignored by her glittering parents; as her Indian mother and British army father party hard, living their colonial life – and literally dying overnight as they chose to ignore the “unimportant” servants dying of the cholera spreading through their house.

The orphaned Mary is unceremoniously shipped to England to live in her uncle’s stately home on the Yorkshire Moors. A broken-hearted house that is full of secrets, which the staff are not very good at keeping hidden from the tenacious and contrary Mary.

Left to make her own entertainment, Mary discovers a secret garden with the help of a friendly robin. Overgrown and unloved for years, it is a forbidden garden. And so, begins the enduring tale of broken hearts healed through nature as all learn how, with the right tending and care, they can bloom and be loved, like the garden.

In what should have been the perfect setting for The Secret Garden, in the open air with nature all around, the production does not deliver on the expected magic as the secret garden grows and thrives – and does not use the natural setting.

The set designed by Leslie Travers starts off so beautifully but by the time the clunky dark earth filled empty flower beds on squeaking iron wheels are pushed onstage; and seeing the not-disabled friendly secret door into the garden fail to fit Colin and their wheelchair through it, making the character + chair go through the “wall”, rather than go through the actual secret door into the secret garden, the magic has disappeared. The Indian paper chains and flowers were pretty but not enough to be magical, and the lovely Indian inspired powder paint thrown onto the back of the set was too little and too late in the show – and could not be seen by most of the audience.

There is magic in the creation of the robin played beautifully by Sharan Phull from the moment she pops up on top of the very high garden wall and charms with Indian song and dance, with a hennaed red breast on each of her hands, used as the sweet robin flittering from branch to branch. And for me, true open air theatre magic happened as a real robin decided to watch stage left on the speaker!

Other puppetry was made from transforming a black shawl into a crow, a fur stole into a grey squirrel and a jumper to a fox, lovingly played by the cast.

Richard Clews as the old loyal gardener Ben Weatherstaff and Amanda Hadingue as Mrs Medlock, in this production, a not quite so formidable housekeeper, are both classic perfect performances. Molly Hewitt-Richards as Martha has laugh out loud moments of natural comedy in her performance. And the word moor, pronounced “moo-er” by all three with their strong Yorkshire accent, is used to amusing effect throughout.

With a strong ensemble cast directed tightly by Anna Himali Howard the first act was a delight.

But the second act rambled by bringing in to play new storylines including a new love development between Colin and Dicken; and an AWOL aunt Padma (sister to both Mary and Colin’s dead mothers) joining the children in the secret garden, which again somewhat breaks the spell of who enters the garden to help everything grow.

There was a tacit point to introducing this new character, as the three Indian sisters had clearly chosen different paths, two by marrying rich Englishmen as both Mary and Colin’s dead mothers had; or fighting against the British Raj as Aunt Padma (Archana Ramaswamy) appears to have done.

This production attempts to show harsh differences between upper and lower classes, a hard call to mix into The Secret Garden. Colin (Theo Angel) must come to terms with the realisation that he will never walk and will always be in a wheelchair. So how could his disabled father Lord Craven (Jack Humphrey) ever love him, as his father is only interested in searching the world to find a cure for his son? Colin’s uncle Dr Craven (George Fletcher) also has a disability – the upper classes hide away disability. And then there is happy Dicken (Brydie Service) who uses a walking stick, yet everyone loves him, and he is called magical….

The script focuses on all the various characters’ disabilities – and the denouement of this production is that it is alright “not to be perfect” – but ultimately it is the parents who are to blame, depending on how they treat disabilities and differences when their offspring are young. Perfectly Harsh.

The star of the night is Hannah Khalique-Frown as Mary Lennox, playing this complex child with complete believability, rarely seen when an adult plays a 10-year-old. And by the end of The Secret Garden, you believe that her Mary cries real tears, as any loved normal child would.


THE SECRET GARDEN at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Reviewed on 25th June 2024

by Debbie Rich

Photography by Alex Brenner








Previously reviewed at this venue:

TWELFTH NIGHT | ★★★★★ | May 2024
LA CAGE AUX FOLLES | ★★★★★ | August 2023
ONCE ON THIS ISLAND | ★★★★ | May 2023
LEGALLY BLONDE | ★★★ | May 2022
ROMEO AND JULIET | ★★★★ | June 2021



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I Know I Know I Know

I Know I Know I Know


Southwark Playhouse

I Know I Know I Know

I Know I Know I Know

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 9th April 2022



“thoughtful and powerful”


The young company DONOTALIGHT brings to the stage a compelling play by Flora Wilson Brown that speaks for the new generation.

A minimal set (Victoria Maytom) comprises some rubber plants positioned on random flight cases. A central shoddy brown sofa, set obliquely, doubles as the front seats of a car.

Alice (Hannah Khalique-Brown) enters the darkened space (Lighting Designer Ryan Day), her face illuminated by the screen of a mobile phone into which she is about to tell her story; the only way she can come to terms with putting her years of trauma into words.

Max (Ethan Moorhouse) and Hannah (Martha Watson Allpress) meet as old university mates, lift-sharing as they drive to Bristol for a mutual friend’s wedding. The bride is Hannah’s former flame, it transpires. Enlightened direction (Harry Tennison) has the couple move freely about the space, engaging in rough and tumble, falling into slow motion scenes, all the while the car journey continues.

These two scenarios occur together in the same space and yet lie a distance apart. Sometimes the conversations coincide and the same words are spoken. At other times there appears a parallel mood between them. At first the technique seems clumsy and I fear that I cannot follow the two stories simultaneously; I worry I am missing something crucial. But the initial clash is intended and it sorts itself out as things progress.

Martha Watson Allpress and Ethan Moorhouse both excel in the relaxed friendship between Hannah and Max. Their smiles, laughter, and repartee are natural and free flowing. If Max is just a bit too much boy-next-door to be a convincing world-leading rock musician, maybe even megastars have a day off from their on-stage personas. Hannah Khalique-Brown is outstanding as the exposed and vulnerable Alice in what is essentially an extended monologue. Her initial quirky mannerisms underlining Alice’s inherent nervousness develop into something else as she finds the courage to speak out, not just for herself but for others too. Some curious staging of a final scene as Alice talks of the future for the only time in the play is marred by her passive positioning, speaking upstage.

Flora Wilson Brown’s thoughtful and powerful script raises so many questions concerning behavioural responsibility and culpability, coercion, and self-doubt. If anyone should consider that the abuses brought to light through the #MeToo movement are only historical then Flora Wilson Brown’s direct and dynamic writing should redress those thoughts. It is only up to us to listen.


Reviewed by Phillip Money

Photography by Ellie Kurttz


I Know I Know I Know

Southwark Playhouse until 16th April


Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Woods | ★★★ | March 2022
Anyone Can Whistle | ★★★★ | April 2022


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