Plague Over England

  • Genre: Drama
    Opened 23 Feb 2009
    Written: by Nicholas De Jongh
    Directed: Tamara Harvey
    Cast: Michael Feast (John Gielgud) , Celia Imrie (Dame Sybil Thorndike), Simon Dutton (Binkie Beaumont)
    Synopsis: Based around the controversial 1953 conviction of Sir John Gielgud - for persistently importuning men for immoral purposes. More than just a dramatisation of a scandalous event in one actor's life, this new play shows how Gielgud's arrest played a small but distinct part in the battle to make homosexuality legal. It captures the spirit of Britain in the early 1950s when judges, politicians and the national press were describing homosexuality as a cancer, an epidemic and a threat to national life. It is an extraordinary insight into the dramatic changes in social attitudes to gay life in the last fifty years.

    What the popular press had to say.....
    JOHANN HARI for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Terrific." MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, "Admired last year at the Finborough, Nicholas de Jongh's fine play about the homophobic 50s has transferred with all its vital organs intact. As well as offering a witty social panorama, it also seems more moving than before: not least in its first-act climax where its harassed hero, Sir John Gielgud, movingly delivers Richard II's speech of kingly submission." CHARLES SPENCER for DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "Plague over England, first seen on the fringe last year, has now confidently moved up West and seems just as impressive, just as touching, the second time around. De Jongh, who can sometimes seem harsh in print, here reveals a warm and even sentimental heart. Equally importantly he displays an assured touch as a dramatist." MARK SHENTON for THE STAGE says, "A smart, moving play." RHODA KOENIG for THE INDEPENDENT says, "Occasionally heavy-handed, Tamara Harvey's bouncy production and witty performances, holds our interest." BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, "His {Nicholas De Jongh] play has an impressive social sweep, taking in police agent provocateurs, a doctor recommending aversion therapy for “queers”, a Chelsea “cottage”, airless rooms in Whitehall, a gay Soho club, but also a clear focus: Gielgud himself."

    External links to full reviews from popular press
    The Guardian
    The Independent
    The Times
    Daily Telegraph

    Production photos by Keith Pattison

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