Plague Over England

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Plague Over England
West End Premiere Poster
Written byNicholas de Jongh
CharactersJohn Gielgud
Sybil Thorndike
Date premieredFebruary 2008 (2008-February) - World Premiere
February 24, 2009 (2009-February-24) - West End Premiere
Original languageEnglish

Plague Over England is a play written by Nicholas de Jongh, based on a real-life incident when actor John Gielgud was arrested for lewd behavior in 1953; it provides an insight into the changes in the lives of gay people over the last fifty years. It received universally positive reviews when it received its world premiere at the Finborough Theatre in 2008, and subsequently transferred to the West End with an updated cast for a limited run.

Plot summary[edit]

On 21 October 1953, John Gielgud was arrested in a public lavatory after being entrapped by a "pretty policeman". There followed a high-profile court case, reenacted in Plague Over England.


The Evening Standard critic Nicholas de Jongh's first play premiered at the Finborough Theatre in February 2008, and transferred to the West End's Duchess Theatre in February 2009, with Michael Feast as Gielgud and Celia Imrie as Sybil Thorndike. It included the following cast: Michael Brown, David Burt, Simon Dutton, Steven Hansell, Sam Heughan, Hugh Ross and John Warnaby. It was directed by Tamara Harvey.


The production received largely positive reviews, many particularly praising Imrie and Feast.[1] However, despite rave reviews, the production closed two weeks early on 2 May 2009.[2][3]

Critic quotes[edit]

  • "...Michael Feast, who knew Gielgud personally, gives a beautifully deft tragi-comic performance as the great actor, at once unworldly, lecherous, self-mocking and full of fear...Celia Imrie offers a delicious double as a touchingly sympathetic Sybil Thorndike... bravo!" Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph.[4]
  • "Lively...arresting." Benedict Nightingale, The Times.[5]
  • "Compelling...a terrific first play." The Evening Standard.[6]
  • "Bracing, moving and intelligent" Sunday Express.[7]


  1. ^ Pritchard, Claudia (1 March 2009). "Plague Over England, Duchess Theatre, London". The Independent. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  2. ^ "Plague Over England to close two weeks early on 2 May". London 1 April 2009. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  3. ^ "Plague Over England Comes To An End". Theatre 15 April 2009. Archived from the original on 22 April 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  4. ^ Spencer, Charles (23 February 2009). "Plague over England at Duchess Theatre, review". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 14 January 2015. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  5. ^ Nightingale, Benedict (25 February 2009). "Plague over England at the Duchess Theatre". The Times. Archived from the original on 16 June 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  6. ^ Hari, Johann (24 February 2009). "Gay London emerges in Plague Over England". Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 28 April 2009. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  7. ^ Shenton, Mark, Sunday Express, 1 March 2009

External links[edit]