Writer and director Mark Giesser tells us all about his play How To Build A Better Tulip, coming to Upstairs at the Gatehouse in London this November.
What is How To Build A Better Tulip about?
How To Build a Better Tulip is a comedy about flower breeding in which two academic rivals are both driven and frustrated by their ancestral history in the pursuit of prize-winning perfection. It’s also about how a strong-willed mother and an equally strong-willed daughter try to get beyond their own family history in order to keep everyone out of serious trouble.
Why did you want to write about this subject?
I was very intrigued by the phenomenon of the Dutch tulip mania of the 1630s, in which otherwise perfectly rational people were driven to absurd heights of speculation in flower bulbs and ruined by it when the bubble burst. Alexandre Dumas’ 19th century novel The Black Tulip expanded on this in a story about the ancient human impulse to manipulate the natural world in the search for an idealised beautiful form. I thought it would be fun to update his plot into our world, and see what the comic possibilities were.
How are rehearsals going?
Rehearsals have been a joy with our wonderful cast of inventive, funny, personally delightful actors, along with the excellent support of our creative team.
What do you hope audiences take away from the show?
We all run the inner voices of our past in our heads — pay attention, but know when to be your own person. And everyone’s garden can always use a few more tulips!
What is next for you?
In February and March, I’ll be staging a revival of John Van Druten’s magical romantic comedy Bell, Book and Candle, in collaboration with Simon Reilly at Theatre at the Tabard in Chiswick.
How To Build A Better Tulip runs 2-20 November 2022 at Upstairs at the Gatehouse. For more information and to book please see the website www.upstairsatthegatehouse.com