Leading not following

Sep 15 2022 | By More

Threepenny Theatricals return with The Herd

Amateur company Threepenny Theatricals return to the Church Hill Theatre this week with four performances of actor Rory Kinnear’s first play, The Herd, from Thursday 15 to Saturday 17 September 2022.

The play debuted at the Bush theatre in London in 2013, the same time as Kinnear was appearing as Iago at the National, for which he was to win the best actor Olivier. This led Guardian critic Michael Billington to comment that Kinnear “seems unfairly talented” in his review of The Herd for the Guardian.

Fiona Main in rehearsal. Pic Ross Main

The Herd, said Billington, “contains some good meaty roles” and the production displayed “the kind of emotional dynamism one associates more with American than British drama”. Indeed, it went on to play the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago in 2015.

In her programme note for Steppenwolf production its then artistic director, Martha Lavey, explained why the company had taken on the play: “The writing is witty and smart and really gratifying and that most importantly, the play is about a family.

“A complicated family, a family with the very particular challenge of a seriously disabled child, a family whose life is shaped by its milieu in suburban London – but first and presidingly, three generations of a family. They face the experiences of birth, death, divorce, how to care for one another in need – the same experiences that define families everywhere.”

For the Threepenny Theatricals production, founder Fiona Main explains that despite his celebrity career, it was Rory’s personal family life that was the inspiration for him to write The Herd.

Main says: “Rory’s sister Karina suffered a lack of oxygen to the brain at birth and was severely disabled as a result. Despite her difficulties, she was a constant inspiration to her whole family and a joy to have around.


“Giving Karina a voice, a proper place in society, and the recognition she deserved were a constant battle for Rory’s mother and resulted in her setting up the Roy Kinnear Charitable Foundation. Rory lived with these issues daily. He recognised that there was a lack of representation of disability or living with disability on stage and was inspired to rectify that.”

Main plays Carol in the production, the mother who is waiting; counting the minutes until her son Andy, who has long been in a care home, arrives for his 21st birthday. She is counting the unexpected guests, counting the times that something like this has happened before.

The company: Back row – Oliver Trotter, James Dickson, Simon Boothroyd
Front row – Dorothy Johnstone, Rebekah Lansley, Fiona Main. Pic Ross Main

Rebekah Lansley will play Andy’s older sister, Claire who unexpectedly brings her boyfriend Mark (Oliver Trotter). Andy’s grandparents Patricia and Brian are played by Dorothy Johnstone and Simon Boothroyd, while James Dickson plays Andy’s father Ian, who abandoned the family.

“It’s all about the characters and their inter-relationships and how they are each affected differently by the presence of the severely disabled Andy in their lives,” says Main. “The dialogue is realistic and relatable, and the situations really draw you in.

“There are no ‘star turns’ in this play – it’s a family in every sense where it is only whole as a sum of all its individual parts. We have a wonderful, experienced cast taking on the fabulous, funny, and intense characters, and an immense amount of work has been put in.”

Once again, this is a production which sees Threepenny Theatricals step outside the expected offerings for amateur theatre and take on a meaty script. Which can be an issue in getting audiences into the theatre.

“We could make it easy on ourselves and maybe perform the well-known Coward plays, Agatha Christie, Ayckbourn or Oscar Wilde, to name but a few,” says Main, “but there are so many theatre companies already doing a great job of them, so why would you want to see yet another one doing the same things?

“There’s so much wonderful material out there that it seems a shame not to show it off.”


The Herd
Church Hill Theatre, 33 Morningside Road, EH10 4DR.
Thurs 15 – Sat 17 Sept 2022
Evenings: 7.30pm; Sat Mat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.


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