In a snug greenhouse at a university in Leicestershire botanist Audrey Braddock (Zoe Ann Bown) opens the play, entering the plant betrodden space that she had thought she would have exclusive right to grow her beloved maize in. To her dismay, Braddock discovers upon arrival that she will have to share the greenhouse with petunia-growing Adrian Vanderpol (Richard Lynson) who becomes her rival in this witty comedy.
Soon a full-on war breaks out between the two of them over their mutual goal to produce a black tulip. Their struggle is not made easier by the ghosts of their ancestors (Martin Wimbush and Molly Vevers) having nestled their way into their heads. In their minds they are living and thriving – they manipulate their hosts as soon as they can, just to make truth of the dreams that they themselves never managed to fulfil.
Also stirring up the plot are botanist student Cornelia and Sergeant Ellsworth, representing the real world versions of the ghosts, and Braddock’s oldest daughter. Together these characters make up an entertaining comedy, where something as trivial as flowers becomes a matter of life and death. In a scene where Braddock raises a shovel to hit Cornelia because of a small mistake, the capture could have been taken from a comedy version of Midsomer Murders.
Based on Alexandre Dumas’ Le Tulipe Noire, director and writer Mark Giesser creates a witty and fast-paced play with a good cast – Wimbush and Vevens standing out among them. As a viewer you leave content: the humour and contemporary setting gives a new twist to the classic, and could reach out to a new audience that maybe otherwise would not consider reading Dumas.
How to Build a Better Tulip is at the Tabard Theatre until 31st May 2014, for further information or to book visit here.