Old Herbaceous – a night at the theatre that was a delight from beginning to end

Old Herbacious – Kick in the Head productions

Alfred Shaughnessy’s sensitive adaption of Reginald Arkell’s novel is a delight from beginning to end, cleverly distilling not just the narrative, but also the spirit of Arkell’s gentle story of a gardener who lived and worked on a large country estate his entire life.

Giles Shenton does a great job of investing Herbert Pinnegar with humanity and stoicism, as he potters around his greenhouse, telling of his time – man and boy – tending to a garden he thought of as his own. We hear of little adventures – a trip to the Chelsea flower show, the judging of a horticultural competition – but the play is really about his touching relationship with Mrs Charteris (the lady of the house), whose bond with him is both profound and unspoken.

Pinnegar knows his place with a deference that might, in less skilled hands, have felt uneasy, but the combination of Shaughnessy‘s writing and Shenton’s performance instead lends a grace and dignity to a story of an ordinary man who is nonetheless quietly remarkable. This is a play about his life, his love of a garden and the woman who owned it, and about times long gone, all beautifully crafted and expertly told.

You can catch the excellent Kick in the Head productions when they return to the Corn Hall with another winning adaptation in September – Three Men in a Boat

By David Vass