Lettice and Lovage

Date 15th October 2021
Society Chatsworth Players
Venue Chatsworth House Theatre
Type of Production Play
Director Lindsay Jackson


Author: Joyce Handbury

Lettice & Lovage is a comical and satirical play by Peter Shaffer and was originally written specifically for Dame Maggie Smith. The play is centred round a tour guide who loves to embellish facts concerning historical happenings at an English Country House but soon finds herself dismissed from this position by a fact-conscious official from the Historic Homes Preservation Trust. However, circumstances transpire to build an unlikely and eventful friendship between them.

The action takes place in three locations - The Grand Hall of Fustian House, Miss Schoen’s office at the Trust and Lettice’s apartment in London. The play opens with Lettice giving her bland, factual delivery to three tourists who are totally disinterested and inattentive to her speil. This outcome encourages her to begin to embellish the historical facts, inventing stories about events and as far as she is concerned, and that of future visitors, this new delivery of hers proves to be a great success. 

To follow in the footsteps of such an esteemed actress as Dame Maggie Smith is definitely a hard act to follow, so what is needed is a top-rate actress for this extremely demanding role. Kate Stuart, as Lettice, was just that and some. Kate was truly magnificent. Her fantastic flamboyant deliveries were outrageously over the top (a trait she states she inherited from her eccentric and theatrical mother). Her exuberant and hilarious mannerisms were not only evident when she was acting as a tour guide but also evident in her dealings with other more mundane matters. They were expressed with such passion and aplomb it was just an outstanding, superb and exceptional theatrical performance. Another fine portrayal came from Helen Rogers as Lotte Schoen. Helen totally captured both sides of the character’s personality admirably. Firstly she was excellent as the domineering, overbearing and self-righteous Trust Official however, about ten weeks later when she pays a visit to Lettice in her London flat and gives her a letter of reference to enable her to obtain a new position - giving tours on boats on the Thames, a very different Lotte emerges. Lettice is moved by this gesture and apologises to Lotte for her behaviour insisting that they have a celebratory drink together (an Elizabethan concoction made with lovage). Lotte rather ‘likes’ it so Lettice keeps refilling her glass and we now see a very different side to Lotte. Helen demonstrates this ‘new‘ Lotte with great abandonment and relish, a wonderful portrayal. Six months later Lettice is being interviewed by a somewhat bemused lawyer, Ms Bardolph, who is played to perfection by Alicia Bloundele. Lettice is accused of a crime against Lotte which occurred during their dramatisations of famous historical trials and executions. Lotte turns up and the lawyer insists on hearing the whole story. The following description of what happened together with the enactment of the ‘execution’ is hilariously demonstrated. The pair eventually resolve their differences and plan to give tours at ugly buildings in the city using Lotte’s architectural knowledge and Lettice’s flamboyant theatrical delivery. 

There were just five actors in the cast so doubling up was used for the various Tourists and for the part of Miss Framer, Lotte’s Secretary. Excellent support in these roles came from Charlotte Cooper, Zena Hawley and Helen Rogers and Miss Framer was delightfully played by Charlotte Cooper.

The simple but effective settings were indicated by the use of excellent props, costumes were by the cast and together with an exceptionally talented cast I witnessed an outstanding, memorable, lively and amusing production. It definitely ‘enlarged, enlivened and enlightened’ my evening and all performed in the most exquisite and prestigious surroundings as those found in The Theatre in Chatsworth House. Congratulations to Director Lindsay Jackson and to everyone involved with this excellent production.