REVIEW: The Herbal Bed at the Cambridge Arts Theatre

The Herbal Bed

The Herbal Bed - Credit: Photo by Mark Douet

The Herbal Bed is playing at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until March 5.

The Herbal Bed, by Peter Whelan.

The Herbal Bed, by Peter Whelan. - Credit: Photo by Mark Douet

Set in Shakespearean England, the story follows Susanna Hall, the Bard’s daughter, after she is accused of committing adultery.

Knowing her marriage to doctor John Hall lacks passion, she finds herself longing for haberdasher, Rafe Smith, and embraces him in her husband’s herb garden.

But it is John’s troubled apprentice, Jack Lane, whose allegations, including those about Susanna’s sexual health, which threaten to undo the pair’s marriage.

Although based on events from 1613, the play’s themes still resonate with audiences today.


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Even the set is engaging; the smell of herbs fill the theatre, and the sound of summer birds bring the doctor’s garden to life.

Actors often stand with their backs to the audience, but this somehow makes it more believable; as if we really are looking in on a story long ago.

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The play aims to highlight the dangers of human desire, and it does, but lengthy dialogues occasionally slow the rhythm of the play.

Performed in the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the play is a fitting tribute to the Bard, where stories of adultery, secrets and deceit capture the imaginations of many.

The Herbal Bed is playing at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until March 5.

Tickets are available on 01223 503 333, or can be booked online at cambridgeartstheatre.com

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