Lamenting her lost time in quarantine, Enid spends her days in the pleasant company of the nurses and other care home residents but principally with herself. Lockdown has caused the isolation of so many across the globe, drawing attention to the ill effects which can potentially last longer than any symptom of the virus itself.
Those shielding have experienced a more distinct period of isolation than those of us able to shop, meet friends and experience a reasonable sense of freedom. With The Plague Thing, Putney Theatre Company serves to remind us that the virus, while still prevalent and dangerous, is having psychologically rippling effects for those separated from friends, families and their autonomy.
Enid’s monologue is earnestly carried by Carol Hudson’s engaging presence, one only wishes it were a little longer to absorb more of Hudson’s performance. With a deft ability, she draws attention inward and somehow manifests a pang of guilt in not being able to see our own family. Refraining from a solely dramatic angle, Marcia Kelson’s writing laces brief moments of , occasionally macabre humour into the short piece, breaking up the moments of poignant connection or sorrow.
Referring to COVID-19 not as a disease, a virus or pathogen, but as a plague, Kelson reduces the disease to an almost trivial level – not out of ignorance, rather out of a way to familiarise audience’s with a language many understand. Orchestrated to a delightfully soft musical score by Geoff Hewitt, The Plague Thing comes together as largely accomplished, easy watching. Gradually, Kelson’s writing unravels small snippets into Enid’s worsening condition. No doubt hampered further by lockdown measures, she questions why her daughter hasn’t visited, revealing a growing period of Dementia. Insightful, the piece serves as a reminder to the long-term mental effects this trying time will have, and the necessity for engaging with people when ‘normality’ returns.
With terrific energy, Hudson’s performance as Enid turns The Plague Thing into a remarkably human short piece of theatre. Under the canny ability of Kelson’s writing, the pair manage to create an engaging piece which, while acknowledging the difficulties of the situation, also poses the question which many have come to ask, would you risk it all, just for a bit of company? There are many, like Enid, who would and Kelson illustrates that it’s challenging not to sympathise with them, and rather than oppose – understand their need for interaction.
The Plague Thing can be streamed online via YouTube here.