Theatre in Wales

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At Theatr Clwyd

Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Mold- The Herbal Bed , Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Mold. , March 22, 2015
At Theatr Clwyd by Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Mold- The Herbal Bed
By 1613, Shakespeare's beloved eldest daughter, Susanna, had married Dr John Hall with whom she was living in Stratford. In that same year she was accused of adultery with a neighbour and of having a sexual disease. To fight the accusations she sues her accuser for slander with the case being heard before the Consistory Court at Worcester Cathedral.

This is the real life background to Peter Whelan's quietly gripping play which here receives an equally gripping production from Emma Lucia. Her direction, helped at first sight by Mark Bailey's realistic garden set, graphically sets out the problems and the procedures and always makes it clear how much is at stake.

The acting is of a very high standard with everyone seeming exactly of the period, already showing the tensions that will lead ultimately to the English Civil War.

Amanda Ryan is Susanna, the wife who is loyal to her husband but who does have thoughts for her handsome neighbour. It's a performance of great inner strength yet emotional torments.

Brendan Charleson is powerful as her husband, an honest and caring man who puts his doctoring and his strict Protestant beliefs somewhat before his family.

Alex Parry as the accuser is immature and lustful, someone who easily jumps to the conclusion that others would behave in the way he himself would like to.

Martin Richardson is the unhappily married neighbour who is basically a good man but somewhat hot headed and quick to explode into action.

Elin Philips gives a wonderful performance as the servant girl who finds herself in an impossible situation but who ultimately demonstrates immense strength of character.

An almost unrecognisable Gwyn Vaughan Jones is the kindly Bishop of Worcester who cannot interfere in the conduct of the cathedral court.

This is in the hands of his Puritanical Vicar General, excellent Llion Williams who resists the temptation to lay on the hypocrisy too heavily and is thus all the more dangerous in the sureness of his beliefs.

As I said a fine play which gets an excellent production.

Reviewed by: Victor Hallett

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