Red Noses is a black comedy about the black death, a vibrant and slapstick hymn to the power of laughter and the human spirit.
There’s no cure for the plague, and Auxerre in France, 1348, is populated by the dying. Marcel Flote, who is afflicted by convulsions, tries to join a band of self-flagellating pilgrims and ends up in a slapstick routine. He has an epiphany: he must serve God by spreading laughter. Joined by Sonnerie, who communicates by shaking limbs covered in tiny bells, he forms a pious brotherhood of joy, the Red Noses of Auxerre, to give cheer to a pestilent and doomed world. His clowning is tentatively approved by the Archbishop Monsolet, but Pope Clement VI begins to be troubled by Flote’s compassion and joviality.
Written in 1978, Red Noses was not performed until 1985, when it was premiered by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican Theatre, London.