Review: Plague at Leeds Carriageworks Theatre

It’s always exciting to see a brand new musical, let alone one written by a talented local team. Sidgwick and Sanders make a bold move putting on a production about the plague when we’re still living our own modern day version but in many ways it’s nice to draw similarities between the hope and determination of the people of Bogsfield and our own communities (despite the musical being written long before the COVID pandemic struck!)

The musical follows the villagers of Bogsfield as they try to protect themselves from the plague. The town’s headman, William Weseham (played with just the right vulnerable confidence by Matt Stirk) comes to blows with the local priest as the pair fight over the right way to protect the town. Meanwhile, the smart and determined Lizzie Turnip (played beautifully by Sophie Massa) heads off in her own quest to find help for the village. Are the people of Bogsfield done for or can they come together to find a cure?

The show is put together brilliantly, with an intriguing plot that has all the right twists and turns to put a unique spin on a town’s plague-y plight. The quality of the set, costume and music is exemplary – the live band deserve a special mention as the impressive score is one of my favourite things about this production.

Jason Weightman, who plays Ranulf Hamanet, steals the show as the town’s sinister priest. He leads the cast with mighty force and charisma, knowing exactly when to bring sincerity to the darker moments yet still managing to bring in the heartiest laughs of the night during Gundred’s Tale. He’s not only a fantastic actor, but the strongest vocalist with a great stage presence. He stands out in this production, but I firmly believe he’d stand out in professional shows too.

Special mention must also go to Anita Adams as Gundred, who also shines. I particularly like the scientific interludes, providing some much-needed comic relief in the exact style of dry humour I love. For farce fanatics there are a few silly moments to tickle your funny bones, but it’s the scientific trio played by Jennifer Winstanley, Adam Folkard and Chris Hall that really keep me chuckling.

Plague runs until 18th September at the Carriageworks Theatre.

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