The Herbal Bed | Review
The Herbal Bed, the secret life of Shakespeare’s daughter is a treat to watch with fine acting and great drama. Touring in the 400th year since Shakespeare’s death and 2 years since the writer Peter Whelan‘s death this play is captivating. The simple and yet incredibly effective set of the garden changes just once during the play to the church’s court and back again at the end the story as it started in the garden.
Set in 1613, The Herbal Bed, tells the story of John Hall’s wife, Susanna (played by (Jonathan Guy Lewis and Emma Lowndes respectively). Suzanna is one of Shakespeare’s daughters, who married John in essence for the respect and interest she has in his herbal medicinal work as a physician.
Accused of adultery with a former client and neighbour Rafe Smith (Philip Correia), by a dismissed student of John’s, Jack Lane (Matt Whitchurch), the story unfolds into a web of lies woven by Susanna to cover her actions and guilt of her feelings for Rafe. Hester (Charlotte Wakefield), the house maid, is drawn into the situation as John seeks a retraction and public apology for his wife as she convinces Rafe and Hester to deny the accusation.
Alongside this moral issue runs the religious views of the Puritans and the traditional Church where the situation is taken to be heard in court. Hester gives her evidence before the Vicar-General, saying “I saw God” and then covers over the truth allowing for Jacks accusation to be cleared.
The issues of sinning, lying, sexual desire and social class are all raised in this play alongside the views of medicine curing evils of illness by some of the religious thinkers. This is a play where the content is as relevant today as it was in Shakespearian times. Although headed as a play about Shakespeare’s daughter this actually just pitches the timing and social relevance of the play and is an added interest rather than the total focus of the story.
Acted by a splendid cast of 8, who keep the audience captivated throughout, this is a play that has wit and humour as well as thought provoking material cleverly portrayed to keep you talking about this play for days.
The Herbal Garden is being performed at The Theatre Royal in Brighton until Saturday 26th March and is definitely worth seeing.
Reviewer : Julie Warwick
Photos (c) Mark Douet
The Herbal Bed is a co-production with ETT, Royal and Derngate and Rose Theatre Kingston and is directed by James Dacre