Sidgwick and Sanders had their writing debut in September 2014 with the world premiere of ‘Supertown’ the musical. The hugely colourful and energetic musical about superheroes not being all they seem to be, took to the stage here at The Carriageworks with LIDOS (a few original Sidgwick and Sanders cast members are in Plague – look for them in the programme!). As Supertown came to a close in Leeds, the writing duo didn’t waste any time being creative and the initial ideas for their next venture were born just weeks afterwards. Both James and Rob enjoyed stylised musicals, and their fondness for history and medieval films and music, brought them to the unpredictable conclusion that a medieval musical would be quite fun! ‘Plague’ was born!
So once the concept was decided, how did it become the amazing show we see before us? James and Rob got straight to it and began writing Plague as soon as the idea was planted. Soon lyrics and music were zooming back and forth across the oceans as the duo started writing while Rob was travelling the world on a Disney cruise ship performing as part of the Royal Duo.
Fulk was the first character to come to life, with the other characters falling into place quite early in the process, with the vision that it would be a full ensemble piece. By November 2014, James had the lyrics for the opening number ‘Bogsfield’ written and sent over to Rob who began working on the melody.
Writing paused in 2015 as Supertown got the honour of being asked to perform at the NODA North East Conference in Bridlington, and then went on to perform at Space Venue 45 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It then resumed after the success of Supertown in Edinburgh and recording for the show to bring the musical numbers to life began soon after. The bulk of the show as we now know it was completed by 2017, though it has continued to be tweaked and polished right up to opening night.
In early 2018, James and Rob approached Donna and Emma about joining the ‘Plague’ team, and LIDOS secured Plague, and its production team as their 2020 September production. This set the organisational wheels in motion. Fast forward to March 2020 and auditions began! However, COVID-19 put a swift halt on the process before all the auditions had taken place and the casting was left in limbo. Along with the rest of the world, Plague was put on hold and the remaining auditions and the production itself had to be postponed until such time that it was safe for theatre to return. In March 2021, virtual auditions restarted and the talented original cast was formed.
The world premiere production was a huge success, earning award nominations at both the Wharfedale Festival of Theatre, and the Leeds Community Arts Network Guild Awards. The success of the show and the audience reactions led to James and Robert turning their attentions towards Edinburgh Fringe Festival - an amazing platform for new writing that they both absolutely love.
On consulting with the cast, they were delighted when 22 of the original 30 cast members were willing to give up their time once again and come with them on this Edinburgh adventure! With some recasting, the cast is now back up to 27 people, a very large cast for the fringe!