8th July 2021 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Peter Macqueen presents “Old Herbaceous” by Reginald Arkell, dramatised by Alfred Shaughnessy.
Pottering amongst the seeds and cuttings at the back of his ramshackle greenhouse in the garden of a gloucstershire manor house is Herbert Pinnegar. Now in his twilight years, he’s full of memories and tales of a bygone era. In between potting up and potting on, he recounts his journey from orphan boy to legendary head gardener ‘Old Herbaceous’ and tells of his friendship with the lady of the house, Mrs Charteris.
Sown with seeds of gardening wisdom, this charming one man show is a love story – a humorous and touching portrayal of a single-minded yet gentle man with a passion for plants.
To portray any character on stage, an actor has to try and find a ‘way in’; an understanding of what makes them tick. As soon as I encountered Old Herbaceous I felt that I was halfway there already. I also knew other people had to meet this “charming, cantankerous, kind, stubborn, humorous old gardener”. But how?
My first garden memories go back to my childhood home in Leicestershire; rectangular walled gardens back and front with traditional lawn and border layouts. The sixties fashion for heathers, small conifers, and island beds had not escaped my father’s notice. He was a Percy Thrower man complete with a tweed jacket and pipe.
We also had a gardener, James, who came to help on Saturday mornings. A ruddy-faced man with a hearty laugh, he was always very patient with my games involving canes and flower pots. It wasn’t for many years that I learnt the name I had always called him was in fact his surname; his first name was Tom. Embarrassment at my childish rudeness could only make amends by respectfully addressing him as Mr James whenever I bumped into him in the village, which is “the proper way to address a Head Gardener”.
” A delightful show – and not just for old codgers and plant lovers!”
Like the young Bert Pinnegar “watching the judges… knowing all there was to know about flowers and vegetables”, I watched as Mr James unearthed the dahlia tubers for spring replanting an my father set about the art of rose pruning.
Moving to Cumbria gave me the impetus to open the greenhouse door at the back of my brain, where Old Herbaceous had been quietly pottering for several years. This was possibly the time and place to introduce him to others. I approached Theatre by the Lake and small-scale rural touring schemes and “that was the start of it all!”.
David Ward of the Guardian newspaper attended a typical, rural, Old Herbaceous performance in Lancashire. He gives an interesting insight into the preparation, performance and clean up of a show in this online article.
“Old Herbaceous was outstanding this evening. Such a perfect performance and I don’t even like gardening! Thankyou.” Daneka Etchells – Twitter
“It’s an intimate and beautifully delivered performance” – News and Star
“Congratulations on Old Herbaceous… we go to Theatre by the Lake on a regular basis and this must be one of the best plays we have seen, Peter Macqueen was outstanding and the whole show was outstanding – George Parkinson
“Thank you to one and all for the production of Old Herb; it felt like I really was sitting in the greenhouse with Bert Pinnegar. I didn’t want the show to end” – Sara Pickett – Facebook