Everyman is one of the earliest printed plays, originally written in Middle English and first performed around 1510. It is a morality play, popular entertainment designed to put the fear of God into congregations, unable to read or write and used for church services in Latin. Its central character, Everyman, stands as a reminder to every one of us that our time on earth is short and that we should take a cold hard look at our lives before it is too late.
The poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, was asked to adapt the play to make it relevant to modern audiences, and it was first performed at the Royal National Theatre in 2015, a scathing attack on the myopic, materialistic way we live today, the environment and climate change being prominent throughout.
Miracle Theatre is a Cornish company, founded in 1979 and dedicated to taking theatre to the people of the county and elsewhere. In order to do this, they have commissioned “The Fleapit”, a big top (actually a ‘small’ top) which can be easily transported and erected, seating about 90 in separate booths, ideal for “theatre-in-the-round”, with the audience made to feel involved from the start. At Brighton, the Flea Pit has been erected in “One Church”, a ten-minute walk from Brighton Station.
Imaginative director Kyla Goodey has staged the play with great energy and sense of style. The production involves an almost continuous soundtrack (Dom Coyote), occasionally a little overwhelming so that we miss some of what is being spoken, as well as projections (Sarah Readman) aiding our understanding of what is going on. At first, the simple set (Amy Pitt) is littered with rubbish which is cleared away, only to be littered again later on by the audience being invited to throw litter into the acting area.
The cast of five demonstrates the art of physical theatre as well as working as a true ensemble.
Dean Rehman is the only one who has a single role – Everyman. He imbues it with anguish, not being able to understand what death is and why he has to die, but we follow him as he gradually understands and accepts, and tries to undo some of the things he has done in life. This is a performance of subtlety, yet he is able to demonstrate the calm needed in the final scenes.
Giles King is very believable, not only as Death, but also in the variety of other roles he plays: he must spend all his time offstage changing costume!
We first meet Charlotte Merriam as someone whose low-paid job it is to clear up other people’s litter – at this point Everyman is still littering non-stop: he has not yet met Death. Later she turns the tables and takes on the role of God, slowly changing Everyman’s disgusting habits and eventually getting him to understand…
Laura Cairns also plays many roles but manages to create a different persona for each one, often with great use of comedy.
Louis King completes the cast, as a musician – in fact, the ‘folk’ song in which all join near the end of the play is most affecting and one wishes there were more ‘live’ musical moments in the production.
Kyla Goodey has ensured that the whole 90-minute piece moves along at a great pace, each scene moving fluidly into the next, the final ten minutes being not only surprising but quite moving.
Recommended to all who enjoy searching out something that little bit different, but it is only at Brighton’s “One Church” as part of this year’s Fringe Festival until 29th May, before touring again.
Review by John Groves
Miracle Theatre brings Carol Ann Duffy’s dazzling adaption of the fifteenth century English morality play right up to date creating a multi-sensory experience with sizzling sound score, mesmerising 360° projection, stunning design, and gripping performances.
Everyman is riding high. He works hard and plays harder. He has success, wealth, good looks and is living the dream… until Death comes calling. Forced to take a chaotic pilgrimage, Everyman becomes a man on the run, frantically attempting to justify his life choices – but who will speak in his defence before his time runs out?
Everyman holds an awkward mirror up to humankind and asks whether it is only in death that we understand our lives…
Everyman is adapted by Carol Ann Duffy, Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the first woman in 400 years to have been appointed to the position of poet laureate, it is directed by long-time Miracle collaborator, Kyla Goodey, with music by Dom Coyote (Kneehigh). Design is by Amy Pitt (Block9) with Lighting and Video Design by Sarah Readman (PunchDrunk).
Cast Includes Laura Cairns, Giles King, Charlotte Merriam and Dean Rehman.