The Gift, Upper Castle Park, Colchester. Until Saturday, September 14. 01206 500900.

By Paul T Davies

This is the first production by Castle Park Theatre, who are planning to tell a story unique to the town every year.

Well, the foundations for that have been laid very strongly with this show, The Gift.

Based on real life events surrounding the restoration of the castle in Georgian times, it focuses on Sarah, a woman many of us haven’t heard of, whose reliance and commitment set the castle on the path to its current place at the heart of Colchester life.

A promenade piece that takes place in the shadow of the castle, it seeps with history and facts.

Writer and director Thomas R Edwards gives Sarah a strong voice, the production is spoken in modern idiom and dialogue, and she has a Greek chorus to argue with, support her and tell the story of her childhood, pregnancies and losses, her relationship with her mother, and her marriages.

The chorus, under musical director Adam Saiz-Abo Henrikson, create beautiful sounds, and as the play progresses and the sun goes down, they add layers of wonder to the show.

I felt they were slightly over used in the first half of the play, interrupting the characters so I felt I didn’t get to know some of them, her first husband, played by Richard Bland, and her father, played by Joseph Alexander Rawlings.

Kate Millner is excellent as Sarah, breaking the fourth wall superbly, engaging and fun, then bringing forward beautiful melancholy at what her beloved castle has become (a prison at one point). Equally strong is Ben Jacobson as her husband, insisting that a woman’s place in society is to be silent, finally opening up to her love and ideas. Jenna Saiz-Abo Henrikson brings life to Sarah’s mother, who gives the castle to her as a wedding present.

The lighting, by Chris Clay, is extraordinary and beautiful, and reveals aspects of the park that we so often take for granted. Huge congratulations to everyone involved, this exciting project is a gift to Colchester itself.