As a sort of song cycle that feels like an oratorio, Ten Plagues marks a thrilling triumph for all involved, a contemporary take on the Great Plague, using the witness of Daniel Defoe and Samuel Pepys, in a generation struck by a new disease altogether, Aids.
Marc Almond, a lizard-like presence in black pleated skirt over black jeans, prowls the stage like a lost lover and an aghast reporter, rapping out the ten songs by Mark Ravenhill and composer Conor Mitchell with a sort of squeamish intensity and considerable musical finesse.
The forestage is littered with illuminated music stands and a solo pianist (Bob Broad). Upstage, a white room and cityscape in perspective, where Almond prowls the scenes of burning and devastation, and the writhing corpses: he suddenly spots his dead lover.
It’s a brilliant and original presentation by director/designer Stewart Laing, with a spectacular coup at the end involving a hidden chorus. The music is tough and demanding, on singer and audience alike, with sudden swirls of lyricism and a tremendous crescendo to the modern landscape of a city bridge thronged with contemporary commuters.
There’s very much a sense here of something afoot in new music theatre, and Almond declares himself an unusually gifted and charismatic participant. Bravo!