It’s 1348 and the Black Death is raging throughout England. Fed up with feudal society, William leaves home to earn his living as a free man and is received into a company of players and tricksters. For these men, the plague offers many lucrative opportunities, from acting as the servants of crusading knights whose men-in-waiting have fled to looting from the dead.
It’s also 1948 in David Edgar’s metatheatrical play about humanity’s response to pandemic suffering. A group of actors are rehearsing a morality play about the plague in a bombed-out church. As they assume their parts and death masks, they are transformed into the motley community living six hundred years previously.
Moving between these two ages of pestilence and war, Edgar unifies these two societies struggling with religious and scientific authorities and disillusioned with the idea of a glorious war.
O Fair Jerusalem received its world premiere in May 1975 at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre Studio.