Everyman – from Directors programme notes
Welcome to the world of the sixteenth century medieval morality play!
The story of Everyman is simple. God, incensed by the ingratitude of his creations, commands Death to select an ‘Everyman’ to represent humanity. Everyman is given his ‘book of reckoning’ and embarks on an epic journey to account for himself before God. He attempts to convince the important figures in his life to accompany him and speak on his behalf. Everyman could easily be called ‘Everyone’ or even ‘Anyone’. Each character represents an element of Everyman’s life: friendship, family, material goods, beauty, strength, good deeds and knowledge. Although death is the main theme of the play, it also poses the question, how should one live?
In our society a sense of right and wrong is no longer defined solely by the teachings of the church. There are many factors influencing our behaviour; family, friends, government, law, the media, culture and religion all have a part to play.
The audience is at the centre of this adaptation. Because of this, we set the staging in the middle of the hall. There is no set, the stage is bare and props are stored in a battered suitcase. We think of it as indoor street theatre; no two performances are the same, and the audience are an integral part of the performance. ….Like the original play, this version is a story is told using simple theatrical techniques and larger than life characters to provoke important questions:- What is human? What distinguishes us one from another? What makes us the same.
In this adaptation, the original language has been modified for a modern audience, with the exception of Death, whose lines remain faithful to the medieval version, speaking in the same voice as he had in the 1500’s, as our experience of death is unlikely to have altered across the years. The characters include a chorus of three undertakers who guide us through the story of Everyman. The job of an undertaker is saturated in ritual – just like theatre – and these three set the tone, keep track of time, introduce the episodes, ask pertinent questions and encourage reflection on what has been witnessed. When they step up onto the stage, they ‘transform’ to present stand-alone moments of rehearsed comic stage business which break up the story, highlight our ‘sameness’ – and – hopefully entertain the audience.
Mary Hands (Director)