More ambitious in concept that execution, Ten Plagues held high promise: gay cultural icon and passionate vocalist Marc Almond, the disintegrating elegance of Wilton’s Music Hall, and an original libretto and score by by Mark Ravenhill and Conor Mitchell (respectively). The theme of the plague coming to London is one that is extremely resonant today with the AIDS crisis; this was alluded to nicely in some animations of a ripple-ab’ed man that Almond at one point addresses as someone who has brought disease to him (and whom Almond sends away).
It all felt so good and so promising and yet …
Looking at it, I can’t help but think the horrible, dissonant, modernistic music was just too agonizing to make for a pleasant evening even at the trim time of sixty minutes (and about one couple evaculating per row). And then there was the thick banality of Mark Ravenhill’s lyrics: I thought of what a difference W. H. Auden would have made and wanted to cry at the wasted opportunity. Almond was dramatic and a pleasure to listen to, looking alternately (and sometimes simultaneously) debauched, decadent, and decayed (especially with his gold teeth and tattoos) – the perfect performer for the space. But he just wasn’t given enough to work with. A few wigs, the pianos, and a bit of lighting – aw, hell, but it all would have been different with better music and lyrics, wouldn’t it?
I’m not sorry I went even for £25, but it all just made me sad and gave me this incredible nostalgia for Susan Philipz’s Surround Me, because her nod to the plague history of London (at Tokenhouse Yard) did so much more and with so very little. She brought tears of nostalgia, grief, and loss to my eyes; Ten Plagues made me want to cry with frustration. Ah well.
(This review is for an event that took place on Thursday, May 9th, 2013 at 8 PM. It continues through May 18th.)