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Best play ever? pt5: Red Noses

In 1985 Annette and I went to the Barbican, where the RSC were resident at the time, to see a new play by Peter Barnes - Red Noses. A comedy set in the time of the Black Death, it followed the adventures of a priest, Flote, (played by Anthony Sher) and his group of 'Floties' - clowns who aimed to bring light relief to the suffering masses. Naturally they fell foul of the ultra-orthodox Christians, especially the Flagellists.

As the Black Death subsided the church back turned to terror to regain the masses and Flotes' troupe became agitators and 'not funny any more.' Their execution was inevitable.

The play seemed to have a breathtaking scope viewed through a microcosm of history, especially with the AIDS epidemic taking grip and the authoritarian Thatcher government in power. It won Peter Barnes an Olivier Award for Best New Play, but most of all it was funny, deeply moving and I've never forgotten it.

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