Theatre Review: One Flea Spare at the Old Red Lion

Experience the fetid claustrophobia of plague-ridden London in 1665, in a powerful production of ONE FLEA SPARE at the Old Red Lion in Islington.

SET against a backdrop of plague-ridden London in 1665, Naomi Wallace’s One Flea Spare tells the story of complex relationships driven to breaking point by crisis.

The wealthy Snelgraves are preparing to leave London after an enforced period of quarantine when two strangers enter their home, leading to a further 28 days isolation.

The strangers - grizzled northern sailor Bunce and the waif-like and mysterious Morse - come from the other end of the social spectrum to the Snelgraves and the class divide is writ large by pompous 17th century attitudes.

The plague, however, is a great leveller and the Snelgraves find themselves in a world with little regard for their wealth. Imprisoned by the lecherous and revolutionary Kabe and with their conservative values challenged by Bunce and Morse, the couple struggle to come to terms with their fear and desire.

The confined set of the Old Red Lion always poses a challenge, but the space is used well and conveys well the claustrophobia inherent in the story. The production is ably assisted by some fine acting performances, notably Ian Gain whose portrayal of Bunce bubbles with dark intensity.

Although smattered with dark humour, One Flea Spare is a fairly cheerless portrayal of a corrupt and fetid London, but is nevertheless a powerful and enjoyable experience.

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* Showing at the Old Red Lion, in St John Street, EC1, until Saturday, April 16.