Shows

Typhoid Mary

If throwback Thursday is still a thing, here’s one for you all. A Cambridge Youth Musical Theatre production that many of us were involved with.

We took it to Edinburgh too. No prizes for guessing why we thought it was time to remind you of this particular story…

Here’s writer, composer Corkscrew friend Geoff Page with a bit more on his wonderful musical ‘Typhoid Mary’.

The Cast of Typhoid Mary on stage. Mary stares out into the audience as the ensemble, dressed in a steam-punk, carnival, cabaret style uniform sing about her.

The January 2016 cast performance in Cambridge

I remember that one of the challenges I encountered describing my musical Typhoid Mary to people, was trying to explain exactly what an ‘asymptomatic carrier of typhoid’ was. Sadly, given the current situation, this strange medical phenomenon, and the huge dangers for the wider society that ‘asymptomatic carriers’ pose, are all too well understood.

In this context, Typhoid Mary, and its exploration of this – as well as various related questions around the ethics of quarantining individuals not for their good, but for the good of wider society – may well have found its theatrical moment. If only there were any theatres able to open in order to produce it…

The other main challenge I had was trying to explain, given Typhoid Mary’s rather morbid subject matter, how such a show in any way constituted an enjoyable evening’s entertainment. And yet, it did… or at least it was meant to.

Typhoid Mary was a dark musical, but also a comic one. Like many playwrights, movie directors, authors, and TV producers, there is something very satisfying about taking a dark subject matter, quite possibly one grounded in tragedy, and trying to make people laugh. There is something very human about trying to find humour in the bleakest of circumstances, and – when done right – it can also be amazingly powerful as well.

I remember as a teenager watching the final scene of Blackadder Goes Forth, which was incredibly moving and somehow even more thought-provoking concerning the horrors of the First World War than the ‘serious’ movies I’d watched, the war poems I’d studied, and the remembrance events I’d attended. Of course, all of these have an important place, and educate and challenge us in different ways, but the experience of watching Captain Blackadder, Lieutenant George, and Private Baldrick – characters I’d grown to love – clamber over the top and charge towards certain death shook me, and stayed with me.

It also taught me the valuable lesson about drama: that when juxtaposed, the light becomes lighter, and the black becomes blacker. And in the coming years there will doubtless be a ‘pandemic’ of Covid-based comedies for us all to enjoy, or avoid. And who knows, maybe even a musical, or ten…

Typhoid Mary

Book, music & lyrics by Geoff Page

Directed by Lesley Ford

Cast:

Tash Brewis, Conor Hunt, Will Males, Holly Masters, Sophie McMahon, Farah Najib, Abbie Palmer, Adam Pennington, Charlie Weldon

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