rosemary - the herbal bed

The Herbal Bed – Stage Set Garden Design, Beckenham

This brief was to design and maintain a set for a play in a local amateur theatre in Beckenham, Kent. ‘The Herbal Bed’ is a play by Peter Whelan about Shakespeare’s daughter Susannah.

Plews were asked to create the herb garden attached to the house of Dr John Hall who was married to Susannah. The director’s brief included using herbs that were named within the script as well as keeping to a tight budget.

Creating the ‘Herbal Bed’Garden

Beckenham Theatre Centre has a small stage and we had to give the effect of an early seventeenth century herb garden in full midsummer bloom, whilst working with the Director and set builder and making sure the actors had room to move around. Marie is fairly knowledgeable on both garden history and herbs, and both Plews partners have been involved with the theatre, so it was a double delight to take on this brief.

The Herbal Bed is set in high summer and the performance was happening in early May 2013. In a season about three weeks behind normal, sourcing herbs and flowers that were not only known and used at the time but also sufficiently well grown to look like plants at midsummer was an added difficulty.

Maintaining the ‘Herbal Bed’ Garden

Using pots that had a look of the early seventeenth century made it easier to lift the plants outside after performance so they could enjoy some fresh air and light. We kept them watered and looking fresh from the later rehearsals and through performance week. We also had to replace those which got picked as part of the action; well there’s no point having an herb garden and not using it!


We were very pleased to win the Best Set Award at the Beatties – shared with Masha who did all the bits that weren’t a herb; a winning combination