Monday, 13 July 2020
The penultimate play in this lengthy and wordy series of podcast plays from playwright David Rudkin, takes us to the Derbyshire village of Eyam, and the years 1665-6. It also has taken me until the 9th play before I come across an event / place that I actually already had knowledge of.
The village of Eyam in Derbyshire is a beautiful and picturesque place, surrounded by the Pennine moors, and is famous for the way it coped with the London plague which visited the village in September of 1665. This podcast play tells that story, of how a consignment of used fashionable clothing was brought from London, and, as the clothing was received damp, it was hung out to dry over the open fires, and released the fleas carrying the virus into the atmosphere. It wasn't until October 1666, and 260 deaths later, that the village could consider the plague vanquished, and normal life could resume. It was the resolve of the whole village though, acting as a whole and unselfishly, isolating themselves completely not allowing visitors into the village and not going out themselves, that contained the virus, and eventually, brought about its downfall.
What I didn't know however was that the virus came in two distinct waves, with a small respite in the middle, and coming back with even more force and killing many more. Further I wasn't aware that the villagers themselves tried everything in their knowledge and power to counteract the virus by wearing vinegar masks, pungeant-smelling flower posies, observing social distancing by keeping 12 feet away from each other, and spending as much time in the open air as possible. Does any of this sound all too familiar??!!
The play is a little on the long side for a podcast to be honest, running at over 70 minutes; however, all 260 names are read out during the play in a kind of ghostly rollcall throughout the narrative which is, in the most part narrated by the metamorphosed virus itself, who speaks dispassionately and militarily about killing..."it's what I do".
The play, or perhaps more accurately, a theatricalised audio-guide to the plague through those 13 months, is poignant and interesting; but in our present situation, is also eerily all too close for comfort.
The virus was performed by Charlotte Cornwell, with the rollcalls and other minor roles being filled by Ray Castleton, Hayley Doherty, Jack Wilkinson, and Anthony Wise.
I've not listened to the final play in this series yet, so I am hoping for a more light-hearted and upbeat end!
Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 13/7/20