The Red Plague
The Red Plague – based on the true story of New Zealander, Ettie Rout, a pioneer during WW1 dubbed “the wickedest woman in Britain”!
Ettie was a journalist, campaigner and safe sex pioneer during the first world war. Against government backing she recruited a group of women to work alongside the troops in Egypt and it was through that work that she discovered the extremely high rate of VD cases amongst the New Zealand troops.
She then set about designing and producing an early treatment kit for soldiers to carry in their kit bag, but the authorities, the army and the people at home could not accept this move towards making “vice safe”.
Ettie was not a particularly likeable person. She was intelligent and arrogant. Extremely energetic and committed but intolerant of any opposition and had no sympathy for the “moral tangles” back home. She saw the whole issue of VD as a medical one not a spiritual one. We will be portraying the dilemma and distress caused by the issues from both sides, the dehumanizing effect of war and the political and social issues in context.
The play does not try to make a heroine of Ettie, though there is no doubt now that she had the right idea … when writing to H G Wells in 1922, Ettie said of herself, ‘it is a mixed blessing to be born too soon’.