Flea the Pandemic, back to 2021

THE Covid-19 pandemic has inevitably revived interest in earlier mass infections – the Spanish flu of 100 years ago and the infamous Black Death of the mid 14th- century.

Sturminster Newton’s Taboo Theatre Company, working with playwright Sue Ashby, will bring the story of this plague that killed untold millions across Europe to the stage of  the town’s Exchange. The premiere of  Flea the Pandemic, Dorset 1348, directed by Craig White, has been pushed back from November to the end of January 2021 by the latest lockdown.

Melcombe Regis, 1348. A ship enters the port laden with goods from far off China: silks, furs, precious stones, wine and herbs. These goods have crossed continents via the Silk Road to Constantinople and sailed in and out of the harbours of Italy and France, to arrive finally in England.

A plague-carrying flea, one of thousands, leaves the ship and jumps from a sailor onto a wealthy Dorset merchant. And there our story of the first plague to arrive in our country begins…

Flea the Pandemic mixes history and humour as it shows the rich and the poor, the powerful and the essential workers encountering the unknown illness spreading across medieval Dorset and on to the rest of the country.

Theatres across the country have been closed since March but are now finding ways to start re-opening. Working with the Exchange, Taboo has devised a socially distanced play for a socially distanced audience. The audience will be set back from the stage and widely spaced, with 50 seats. in the 300 seat Stour Hall.

Taboo is raising funds for the Exchange with this production, the first live performance in the theatre since 12th March

Taboo is an actors’ collective. In 2018, after seven years successfully touring plays in association with the Martinsey Isle Trust, the company took a new direction. Rage, Tears and Cider and The Miller’s Daughter were both original plays, by Sue Ashby and Tony Benge, using carefully researched local history to look at social issues through the eyes of ordinary local people.

Flea the Pandemic is the third such play, written in new and challenging circumstances. This production is dedicated to Tony Benge, who died earlier this year (1943-2020).