Sheffield University Drama Society

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Red Noses

by Peter Barnes


Directed by Ian Gledhill
Performed Wednesday 26th to Saturday 29th November 2008
Sheffield University Drama Studio

A gallery of photos can be viewed here.

The Production Manager set up a blog, which provided news and updates as the production came to life. Visit the blog here.

Extract from Michael Billington’s review of Red Noses in The Guardian

"Red Noses is a brilliant play. It also does something rare in modern drama: it presents us, unsentimentally, with a vision of love and hope. Barnes has written a tremendous life-affirming piece that celebrates the human spirit, while deriding those who would tyrannise and encase it.

Barnes brings humour from a forbidding subject: the Black Death. The play presents us with a priest, Father Flote, who forms a troupe of clowns who tour the plague-stricken areas of 14th century France putting on shows like a Dark Ages vaudeville. Initially encouraged by the Pope, the end of the plague means a return to the normality of hierarchical power. Their mission has failed except, as someone says, “no man fails completely who shows us glory”.

Barnes’s great, rich, joke-packed stew of a play does many things. At its most basic it questions doctrinal Christianity with its emphasis on guilt and expiation, presenting us, through the red-nosed Flotties, with a religion based on joy and laughter.

While celebrating happiness, the play also amounts to a discourse on the nature of laughter itself. In a scene of staggering audacity, Barnes makes us laugh affectionately at the improbable recruits to the Flotties band who include a blind juggler, two one-legged dancers, and a stand-up comic with a stutter. As Flote says, “We just saw the very apotheosis of Christianity – the triumph of hope over experience,” and we laughed both at the gag and its jolting truth.

Barnes also asks whether every joke is a small revolution or simply a diversion from reality. But his play answers the question by proving that laughter can shock and stimulate as well as divert.

I can think of no post-war play that demonstrates so vividly that Socialism (which is what the Flotties partially represent) should be a source of gaiety; and few that put on stage so tangible a vision of happiness. Barnes has broken the petty rules by which we judge plays and proved that First and Last Things can be presented with compassionate hilarity."


Click on the image below to download the poster.

Red Noses poster