The White Plague
The White Plague by Alexander Raptotasios imagines an infectious disease that causes blindness hitting London in June 1991.
The authorities respond by imprisoning the afflicted in special quarentine detentions centres guarded by soldiers ordered to kill anyone who attempts to leave.
Inside these prisons, the blind must organise themselves. Our story takes place in a centre composed of three dormitories. It is quickly dominated by a man with a gun whose own dormitory is men-only and rations out the food in exchange for valuables including women as sex slaves.
The play has the pessimism of The Day of the Triffids that depicted a blind population quickly becoming authoritarian.
It might like Lord of the Flies have explored questions of the way we organise society, or it could have been a pointed satire in line with the way some people regard Brexit Britain, but instead it is little more than a one-dimensional crime story in which vulnerable blind people are at risk from an evil blind dictator. There is no complexity of character or ideas.
Described as an immersive production, the theatre company gives each member of the audience as they arrive at the show, a label of identification such as “Shy Man”, “Foxy Lady” and “Man with blue eyes”. They are also asked to wear goggles that prevent sight and then are led blind into their seats for the performance.
It turns the show into a form of radio play that has no need for scenery, or costumes. The acting is believable but there is limited dialogue and a good deal of description.
Unfortunately, it also gets very hot and uncomfortable for the blind, passive audience member. You don’t feel you can move very much for fear you will get in the way of performers rushing about the space.
Nothing you hear is surprising or particularly imaginative, but surely there are more interesting and comfortable ways of listening to a radio play.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna