Peter Whelan’s award-winning play The Herbal Bed is set to visit the Theatre Royal Bath from Tuesday 12th to Saturday 16th April starring award-winning Emma Lowndes (Downton Abbey, Cranford), Patrick Driver (Silent Witness, The Office), and two-time Olivier nominee Charlotte Wakefield (Oklahoma!, Mamma Mia, Spring Awakening). The cast also features Philip Correia, Jonathan Guy Lewis, Michael Mears and Matt Whitchurch.
This first major revival of Peter Whelan’s 1996 play, The Herbal Bed, features music by acclaimed Icelandic composer Valgeir Sigurðsson, and reunites director James Dacre and designer Jonathan Fensom, who won the 2014 UK Theatre Award for Best Design for Peter Whelan’s The Accrington Pals (also starring Emma Lowndes) at Manchester’s Royal Exchange.
When William Shakespeare’s daughter, Susanna Hall, is publicly accused of adultery with her neighbour, her husband chooses to stand by her, suing her accuser for slander. Based upon real life events from Stratford-upon-Avon in the summer of 1613, this emotional thriller sees their lives fall under intense public scrutiny, culminating in a dramatic trial at Worcester Cathedral as the scandal threatens to destroy Susanna’s family’s reputation within their tight-knit community.
A powerful exposé of the contradiction between human desire and social convention which seeks to repress it, Peter Whelan’s moving and uplifting play about the secret life of one of English dramas most fascinating women, the Bard’s daughter, provides a beautiful evocation of life in Shakespearean England. The Herbal Bed was originally produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company to great acclaim – a production which toured to the Theatre Royal Bath in 1998 – before transferring to the West End and Broadway, winning the Writer’s Guild and TMA Awards.
Original music for this new staging of The Herbal Bed has been composed by Valgeir Sigurðsson, founder of influential Icelandic collective, the Bedroom Community. Valgeir’s album releases include Architecture of Loss, Dreamland and Equilibrium. He has collaborated on films including Being John Malkovich, and worked with Bjork, Bonnie Prince Billy, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Damon Albarn.
Emma Lowndes plays Susanna Hall. On television, she played Margie Drewe in Downton Abbey and Bella Gregson in Cranford. Her screen credits also include Vera, Silent Witness, Survivors, The Musketeers, Moving On, Jane Eyre, Waking the Dead and After Life. Her theatre credits include Children of the Sun and Thérèse Raquin at the National Theatre, The Glass Menagerie for Shared Experience on tour, Great Expectations at the RSC, The Storm at Shakespeare’s Globe, and Whose Life Is It Anyway? in the West End. Emma’s many performances at the Royal Exchange Theatre include her Manchester Evening News Award-winning roles in Port and The Seagull.
Patrick Driver plays Bishop Parry of Worcester. His stage work includes numerous productions at Shakespeare’s Globe; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in the West End; and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, London Assurance and Volpone at Manchester’s Royal Exchange. His television credits include Silent Witness, Whistleblowers, The Last Chancers, The Worst Week of My Life, Peep Show, The Office, and My Hero. As actor and joint Artistic Director of Dialogue Productions, Patrick has toured to theatres throughout the UK and internationally.
Philip Correia plays Rafe Smith. His theatre credits include The History Boys at the National Theatre, in the West End and on tour; A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Holy Warriors and Antony and Cleopatra at Shakespeare’s Globe and internationally; The Pitmen Painters at the National Theatre; The Merry Wives of Windsor at the RSC; and at Chichester and in the West End, The Syndicate, which played Bath in 2011. Philip performed in National Theatre: 50 Years on Stage broadcast by NT Live. His television credits include Atlantis, Inspector George Gently, Vera, Doctors and Lewis.
Jonathan Guy Lewis plays John. His West End theatre credits include An Inspector Calls, A Few Good Men and A Comedy of Arias. He toured the UK, including to Bath, and played London in I Found My Horn, which he also wrote. He last performed at the Theatre Royal Bath in 2009 in Alphabetical Order. His television credits include Endeavour, Vincent, Skins, Coronation Street, Sea Of Souls, London’s Burning, Peak Practice and Soldier Soldier.
Michael Mears plays Barnabus Goche. He has performed extensively with the RSC, at the National Theatre, and his West End credits include The Goodbye Girl, You Never Can Tell and The Woman in Black. Last seen at the Theatre Royal in 2014 in Thérèse Raquin; Michael has also played Bath in A Little Hotel on the Side in 2013, The Tempest in 2012, and, with The Peter Hall Company, in You Never Can Tell in 2005, Habeas Corpus and Measure for Measure in 2006, and Henry IV Parts 1 & 2 in 2011. His film and television work includes Parade’s End, Sharpe’s Rifles, The Old Curiosity Shop, Private Peaceful, Four Weddings and A Funeral and Little Dorrit.
Charlotte Wakefield plays Hester Fletcher. Last year, she performed in Monsieur Popular at Bath’s Ustinov Studio, and played Laurey in Oklahoma!, which toured to the Theatre Royal’s Main House. Her credits also include The Sound of Music at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre; Mamma Mia in the West End and internationally; Such Tweet Sorrow at the RSC; and Spring Awakening in the West End. Her television work includes Holby City, The Royal and An Angel for May. Jack Lane is played by Matt Whitchurch, whose credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Liverpool Everyman, and television including Call the Midwife, The Outcast, and Some Girls.
At the Theatre Royal, the role of Elizabeth Hall will be shared by Evie Brown, age 8, and Paige Halliday, age 9. Evie, who was born in Bath and lives in Keynsham, has been a student at the Stagecoach Performing Arts School in Keynsham for over 4 years. Paige lives in Bristol and has been attending Stagecoach since she was 3.
Peter Whelan began his career in advertising and screenwriting before writing for the stage. In 1996, he was appointed an Honorary Artistic Associate of the RSC. For The Herbal Bed he won the Writers’ Guild Award, Lloyd’s Private Banking Award, TMA Award and Eileen Anderson Award. His many plays also include A Revolutionary Marriage; Divine Right (Writers’ Guild, TMA and Eileen Anderson Awards); Shakespeare Country, Worlds Apart, The Accrington Pals and Double Edge Lakota. His television credits include In Suspicious Circumstances and The Trial of Lord Lucan.
Director James Dacre is Artistic Director of Royal and Derngate, Northampton. He was previously Artistic Associate at the New Vic Theatre. For Royal and Derngate, his work includes Brave New World and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, both of which toured the UK. For Shakespeare’s Globe, he directed King John, which toured the UK; Holy Warriors and As You Like It, which toured internationally. He directed The Mountaintop in the West End, King James Bible for the National Theatre, Accrington Pals for the Royal Exchange, and 4000 Miles at Bath’s Ustinov Studio in 2013.
The Herbal Bed appears at the Theatre Royal Bath from Tuesday 12th April to Saturday 16th April. Tickets are on sale at the Box Office on 01225 448844 or via www.theatreroyal.org.uk