The Covid Requiem

Nov 11 2022 | By More

★★★★☆      Necessary

St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral: Thu 10 – Fri 11 Nov 2022
Review by Hugh Simpson

There is a clarity to The Covid Requiem at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral which makes its sadness, gentle outrage and remembrance a fitting act of collective memorial.

A joint production from the Traverse and the Cathedral, the Requiem features the distinguished playwright and performer Jo Clifford and feminist historian, writer and activist Lesley Orr.

Jo Clifford and Lesley Orr. Pic P Backhouse

First performed in the Explorers’ Garden at Pitlochry Festival Theatre, the Covid Requiem was conceived as a way of acknowledging, and bearing witness to, those hundreds of thousands whose deaths from Covid went unmarked, unattended or uncommemorated owing to the demands of the lockdown.

Some of those are mentioned by the performers, with the simpler, folk-derived music of Duncan Chisholm here replaced by a full-on performance of Faure’s Requiem. This is sung by the choir of St Mary’s, conducted by Duncan Ferguson. Imogen Morgan plays the organ and the solo violinist is Hester Parkin

Clifford and Orr’s words are beautifully considered – delicate yet potent. The text is questioning when it needs to be, while providing consolation and support when required.

There is anger too – fittingly in a week where one of the main players in the Westminster government’s display of high-handedness, cronyism and wilful disregard of their own rules, is being rewarded by a huge payout for a reality TV show.

Due tribute

Due tribute is paid to those who suddenly found themselves more valued or less marginalised during lockdown, only to find they are even less well compensated, or even more the scapegoats, on the other side.

But the anger does not predominate. Instead, the focus is on remembrance, recollection and on trying to find a way to deal with the weight of grief and outrage – while acknowledging that such a moving on is extremely difficult.

The choir of St Mary’s. Pic P Backhouse

That balancing act is reflected by the way that Clifford and Orr perform their texts. The tone is just right, the effect magical.

If there is a problem, it comes from the magnificent setting, and the wonderfully clear performance of the music. They are beautiful in themselves, but combine to make what is billed as performance ‘for those of any faith and none’ a trifle unbalanced.

This requiem is described as ‘not overtly religious’ but is bound to come across as reflecting a particular tradition under the circumstances.

This is a minor point, however, as the end result is suitably inclusive, and sadly necessary.

Running time 1 hour 10 minutes (no interval)
St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Palmerston Place, EH12 5AW
Thursday 10 & Friday 11 November 2022
Daily at 7.00 pm
Tickets and details: Book here.
More information at:

Jo Clifford and Lesley Orr with the choir of St Mary’s Cathedral. Pic P Backhouse


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