Heritage weekend at Lauderdale House

Jonathan Lovett as Samuel Pepys in Fleas and Cheese picture by Anna Gordon

Jonathan Lovett as Samuel Pepys in Fleas and Cheese picture by Anna Gordon - Credit: Archant

The Highgate arts centre hosts an array of activites celebrating their rich history including a one man show about the Great Fire and plague with all the gory bits

"We're the plague people," says Jonathan Lovett cheerfully.

"We specialise in the Black Death. We have an interactive section where we invite children into the doctor's surgery to see all the ailments, they really go for it with the vomiting and the bubos".

The Crouch End actor brings his hour-long one-man educational tale of grisly disease and conflagration to Lauderdale House for their Heritage Weekend.

In Fleas and Cheese; the Great Plague and Fire Show he plays Alfie, a peasant with a pet rat, and dons a curly wig to play Samuel Pepys.

The diarist famously wrote about witnessing The Great Fire of London and also visited the Highgate mansion in 1666 as a guest of Lord Lauderdale.

"The 1660s were a turbulent time for London and the country," says Lovett, who describes the show as "Monty Python meets Horrible Histories with a bit of Steptoe and Son thrown in."

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"Doing the plague and fire in one show means you can double up on the costumes."

He and partner Marianne's company talesofplague.co.uk started five years ago as a guided walk on the Great Plague of 1665 and the 14th century Black Death.

Then a school got in touch to ask if they would come in to help bring the disasters to life.

"We got a show together on all the best gory disases but with a light touch. That period of the 14th century - we do a bit on the peasant's revolt and Richard II - can be quite horrible if you dig into the detail. But the children really respond to the gore.

"When I was at school we had a lot of dictation in history. It was very dry and we never saw actors coming in to bring it to life."

On February 22, Lovett will be reading from Pepys' account of his visit to Lauderdale House, and performs Fleas and Cheese (suitable for ages 5-11) on February 23rd as part of the arts centre's annual heritage weekend.

"It's a great venue especially as Pepys came there in July 1666 and knew Nell Gwynne who is said to have lived there," adds Lovett.

"It's also said that she haunts the house so I hope she comes and enjoys the show."

The weekend includes a host of free activities on 23rd from 11-4pm for families to learn more about the history of the house.

A family trail, quiz, crafts table, dressing up as Victorians Tudors and Stuarts, and playing giant versions of traditional boardgames are on the programme.

On Sat 22 there's a Local Heritage fair from 11.30-4.30pm with talks, music and tours of the house and representatives from local museums, history societies and historic houses on hand to answer questions.

And there's a walk by ecologist Richard Layzell around Waterlow Park where he has an artist's residency. At 5pm Chamber Opera ensemble Insieme perform songs based on the music and poetry of former Highgate residents Liza Lehman and Christina Rossetti.

For more detail go to lauderdalehouse.org.uk