Melbourne Theatre Company has chosen Peter Whelan's The Herbal Bed to open the 1998 season. The play was a recent success in London's West End.
Historically in 1613, Shakespeare's eldest daughter Susanna, wife of physician John Hall, was accused of adultery with Rafe Smith, a family friend. Her accuser was the doctor's apprentice, Jack Lane. Desperate to save the family name Susanna took the matter to the Bishop's Court, claiming defamation of character.
The play looks at the moral and political questions of the day which are issued once the matter reaches court, as we see Susanna, her husband, and family friend pitted against a mean-spirited, puritanical inquisitor determined to unearth the truth as he sees it.
The Herbal Bed runs January 6 - February 7, 1998. Venue: Fairfax Theatre Victoria Arts Centre. Bookings: (03) 11566.
--By Peter Kemp