Venue: The Lowry
Where: Salford

The Key to the Garden
tells the story of Manchester born author and playwright, Frances Hodgson Burnett. This biographical play takes us on a concise journey from 'Fanny's' simple Salford childhood through her emigration to America and, driven by the need to support her family, eventual establishment as a successful writer.

Each Act features a series of chronological snapshots from Fanny's life, including those forming the inspiration for her best known works; The Secret Garden and Little Lord Fauntleroy. The talent of Rachel Laurence, both the writer and performer, cannot go unmentioned; the imagery created through this extended monologue is beautifully vivid and Laurence appears very at home on the stage during this solo performance.

The audience was a little thin on the ground, which perhaps reflects the rather niche nature of the subject matter, but it is a shame that so many people missed the opportunity to learn about a woman Manchester should be proud of. On a personal note, it felt to me like a direct message from one writer to another, and a performance I found unexpectedly inspiring.

- Poppy Helm