WHAT better time to start rehearsals for York Theatre Royal's summer family show, The Secret Garden, than in the week of the city's horticultural festival, Bloom!.

Jessica Swale's adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett's children's novel was premiered in a Christmas hit run at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick and is now being re-staged in York by director Liz Stevenson with a delightful score by Barnaby Race and a menagerie of puppets, directed by Steve Tiplady.

Ella Dunlop will lead the cast as spoilt, lonely Mary Lennox, who lives a life of luxury in 1910 India with her aristocratic parents, but when an unexpected twist of fate suddenly leaves her orphaned, she is sent to live with an unknown uncle in Misselthwaite Manor, a mysterious place on the wild Yorkshire moorland. Assisted by unexpected friends, Mary tries to discover the legend of its secret garden.

Director Liz Stevenson says: "I am thrilled that our production of The Secret Garden will be coming to York. It was a wonderful experience making the show in Keswick last Christmas and to see how the audience there took the story to their hearts. It feels particularly special to now be bringing it to Yorkshire.

"Through the journey of the play we see how Yorkshire's beautiful landscape and the warmth of its people turn Mary's life around. Jessica Swale's adaptation of this much-loved classic brings all of its magic and mystery to life on stage, and we're excited about reviving it for York Theatre Royal this summer."

York Press:

The Secret Garden's lead actors, Matthew Durkan, left, Ella Dunlop and Steven Roberts, on the terrace at York Theatre Royal on day one of rehearsals. Picture: Hannah Carter-Brown

Stevenson is the associate director at Theatre by the Lake and artistic director of Junction 8 Theatre. She won the JMK Young Director Award in 2015, giving her the opportunity to direct her production of Barbarians at the Young Vic, and subsequently it was nominated for an Olivier award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre.

Swale is an Olivier award-winning writer and director, whose first play Blue Stockings, at Shakespeare’s Globe, brought her an Evening Standard Most Promising Playwright award and is now on the GCSE drama syllabus. Her play Nell Gwynn transferred from the Globe to the West End and won the Olivier for Best New Comedy, and she has directed numerous productions for her company Red Handed.

Dunlop will be joined in Stevenson's cast by Matthew Durkan as Dickon and Steven Roberts as Colin Craven, among others, for the Theatre Royal run from July 27 to August 25.

Flo Wilson will reprise the role of Mrs Medford from the Keswick production, arriving in York after playing Peggy in Alan Bennett's Talking Heads at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds. Chris Jack will take the roles of Archibald Craven and Inspector 2 on his return to York from touring in the Theatre Royal/Pilot Theatre premiere of Bryony Lavery's adaptation of Graham Greene's Brighton Rock.

Tickets are on sale on 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.