Ravenhill’s production of ‘10 Plagues’ offers a wildly immersive experience

Having changed the face of British drama over the past 20 years, can Ravenhill’s production of 10 Plagues match the expertise of his previous works?


The trailer for The Belfast Ensemble’s production of 10 Plagues

Mark Ravenhill and Conor Mitchell‘s groundbreaking piece of music-theatre 10 Plagues possesses a wild inventiveness that powerfully explores some of history’s most defining moments of suffering, distress and plague.

The Belfast Ensemble performed a terrifically immersive rendition of Ravenhill’s production of 10 Plagues on Wednesday at the Sherman theatre, by constructing an exceptionally sensory and highly artistic piece of experimental theatre.

By combining both biblical and literary epidemics with contemporary cultural references, 10 plagues holds a mirror up to the devastating reality of the 1665 Black Death in London and also resonates with the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.

Retold through the eyes of one man in the city, Ravenhill’s production highlights the peaks and troughs of the hardship faced by individuals who were first-hand witnesses to the suffering. 

10 Plagues, copyright: Belfast Ensemble

Differing from Ravenhill’s infamous productions of Handbag and Shopping and Fu***ng, 10 Plagues provides a personal and confessional account of Ravenhill’s own experiences which are exceptionally portrayed by libretto, Matthew Cavan.

Cavan offers elements of deep emotion as well as an aurora of a morose nature which in turn allows him to possess total ownership of the stage.

Prior to 10 plagues, Cavan has played some of the most dynamic roles in the theatrical canon, yet something that particularly resonated throughout 10 plagues was the element of trust between the playwright, composer and actor.

Many of the lyrics throughout the production provide a deeply emotive sentiment with themes that resonate towards the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.

Finding the right actor to perform a confessional piece of work in theatre can quite often be misconstrued and exaggerated. The trio of Ravenhill, Mitchell and Cavan however, naturally gel together throughout 10 Plagues which ultimately leads to an insanely intense yet moving experience.

Whilst the staging and the overall production of this one-man show exceeds in pushing the boundaries of the genre, Ravenhill’s show feels more like a sensory experience rather than a piece of traditional theatre.

For newcomers to the theatre scene, it should be noted that the production is complex in its very nature, and can on occasions cause confusion with its surreal and artistic features.

For more information about where the production is next touring, please click here.

For more details about other productions at the Sherman theatre, Cardiff, please click here.