Ten Plagues

Libretto by Mark Ravenhill, music by Conor Mitchell
Traverse 1

Ten Plagues is somewhere between a modern opera and a song cycle. For an hour, audiences are regaled by sensuous singing from Marc Almond, bringing back memories of his heyday with Soft Cell.

Under the direction of Stuart Lang, who also designed the evening, Almond does more than just sing, moving around on the stage and giving his all while conveying the horrors of a city suffering from the democratic horrors of a plague.

He goes to great pains to make his audience realise how terrible a plague is and, in particular, its sheer inevitability. In doing so, he conveys both despair and reflection prior to an ending filled with remembrance for the dead along with joy and hope.

Throughout, one is compelled to think of three different occurrences. The title inevitably evokes the biblical variety, while the text and costume are pure London, 1665. At the same time, there is little doubt that both Mark Ravenhill and Marc Almond wish us to recall the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and beyond. Indeed, a series of film projections leave little doubt.

Almond still has a lovely, plaintive voice and enunciates perfectly. He is accompanied only by Bob Broad's solo piano playing that tends to veer between Schubertian and funereal with something of the ghoulishness of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd.

This is an unusual Edinburgh Fringe show but thanks to the efforts of all involved, proves to be both moving and thought-provoking and as such well worth a try.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher