Review – Everyman, National Theatre

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Everyman_title-333x500Phil conducted an experiment last night.

He was wired up to a blood pressure monitor for 12 hours yesterday. It’s something they do when you get old. This meant he was wearing it throughout the full 1 hour and 40 minutes of Everyman last night.

He hadn’t realised the machine would make a slight noise. So he piled up coats over the cumbersome device to muffle the sound, which made a low whirring sound every half hour as it kicked into action. Phil’s companion for the evening said he didn’t hear it at all. Of course, despite a lot of noise on stage, it only seemed to go off during the quietest moments.

Not really recommended. Worrying about it probably raised Phil’s BP even higher.

But does going to the theatre raise or lower your blood pressure? The results aren’t in yet but Phil has speculated on how the play may have affected his results:

LOW BP A woman cleaning the stage with a mop for 10 minutes before it began. This is the second opening under Rufus Norris‘ new regime and the first he’s directed since he took over. Glad to see he’s keeping a tidy house.

LOW BP Chiwetel Ejiofor‘s spectacular entrance on a wire. Falling in slo mo to a background of Tal Rosner‘s arresting video designs.

LOW BP Seeing a play by someone called “unknown”. Everyman (AKA The Summoning of Everyman) is a 15th-century morality play examining salvation and what we must do to attain it. Everyman (Ejiofor) is all of us. Of course he is. He parties hard, neglects his family, takes lots of cocaine, gets tied up by police “do not cross” tape on his 40th birthday and hobbles around wearing only one shoe. No kinky boots for Ejiofor tonight.

LOW BP Later we see a lot of bare feet. Phil was relieved Andrew eschewed coming along. Andrew hates seeing them.

HIGH BP Poet Laureate Dame Carol Ann Duffy has adapted it. Some of it rhymes rather annoyingly and the dour subject matter is infused with lame humour. References to contemporary subjects include Lenny Henry, loyalty cards, Lionel Messi and Beckham. It began to rile, we couldn’t even raise a smile.

HIGH BP The excessive partying at the beginning. You may think you’ve accidentally wandered into Sadler’s Wells to see a dance piece. There is an abundance of choreography and movement from Javier de Frutos. It tries to be very of the moment yet feels dated. It goes on and on and then some. But even more distressingly it kicks off with a (c)rap number…

LOW BP …which eventually turns into Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love”.

LOW BP Sharon D Clarke is in it. Need we say more? We also hear her sing.

LOW BP Everyman is threatened by Death (Dermot Crowley, nicely dry) so attempts to improve his life and tries to get his mates to improve theirs too. His friends are named Sound, Passion, Vanity, Strength, Smell, Sensuality, Conscience, Touch, Taste, Sight, Discretion and Insecurity. Presumably they all have been monikered by celebrity parents?

HIGH BP There’s a shopping trolley. Shopping trollies on stage are fast overtaking Phil’s other theatrical bête noires (park benches and balloons). Is Rufus Norris seeking continuity with previous National productions? Will everyman and everywoman write to him and tell him to stop it immediately.

LOW BP God (Kate Duchêne) looks not unlike a character from a Victoria Wood sketch.

HIGH BP There’s a scene in a department store with dangling silver mannequins (design Ian MacNeil) with a rather clichéd pop at consumerism. The best Phil can say about this is it reminded Phil of a glitzy 21st-century Are You Being Served?

LOW BP We know it’s wrong to even mention these things (and we did only last Friday), but it’s good to see another person of restricted growth getting acting work and Kiruna Stamell seems to get a lot.

HIGH BP The set from Norris’ Behind the Beautiful Forevers is recycled as a living wall of waste products that processes around the stage.

LOW BP Everyman meets a down and out called Knowledge. Penny Layden makes a splendid job of a tricky part until she whips out a (presumably) prosthetic cock and urinates all over the stage and Everyman. Hats off for offering such a succinct critique of the proceedings.

HIGH BP A giant fan is wheeled around blowing rubbish into your face (some of it even reached the back of the stalls). We suggest you don’t – as we did – sit near the front and definitely avoid getting your hair neatly coiffed before you come.

HIGH BP Presumably Charles Dickens found inspiration from this play. There’s a lot of Scrooge-like moments where Everyman is forced to revisit his past. The worst is when he’s shown a vision of himself as a child. Eek!

LOW BP Ejiofor’s performance is powerful, charismatic and full on. It’s almost enough to hold the show together. He sweats profusely and produces a tsunami of expectorate (again, best to avoid the front). Fortunately they’ve thought to hose him down with a rainstorm and shower of bubbles at the end.

LOW and HIGH BP There’s no interval. We suggest you sit on an aisle.

HIGH BP Previous NT Artistic Directors all received Knighthoods (Olivier was Lorded). Phil’s now beginning to worry about Rufus Norris’ K.

Bottom line: A Christmas Carol with rubbish or a rubbish Christmas Carol?


9 Responses to “Review – Everyman, National Theatre”

  1. Sal Says:

    Longtime fans of the Whingers regret that Andrew recused himself for this play by the Rosie O’Donnell of the Brit poetry biz, if only because he was present for four consecutive previous reviews, possibly a record since his sabbatical began?

  2. Hackney Hal Says:

    Rufus Norris’ attempts to make the NT audience more diverse and youthful seem to consist of programming shows that will appeal only to 50-year-old Guardian readers like himself.

  3. Mike Tivnen Says:

    Running (or nap) time?

  4. It was a lot more exciting than the production I was in at the Chester Festival in 1973, wearing a brown sack – not sure which of the deadly sins I was playing, think it was ‘Hessian’.

  5. Andy Booth Says:

    I found it to be diverting, interesting, easy on the eye and punchy. I think your two star review is a little harsh, but beauty is in the eye of etc etc… I also thought your review was very funny and judicious too btw. Keep up the good work.

  6. Sandown Says:

    “Is Rufus Norris seeking continuity with previous National productions?”
    A rhetorical question is one that answers itself. This production is yet another expensively-mounted multi-culti travesty of a classic. Norris is certainly turning out to be the Heir to Hytner.

  7. Absolutely spot on as always

  8. Derek Says:

    After the awful gush about Everyman in the qualities your review was a breath of fresh air – quite agree, it was slightly corked, all flash and wallop with very little substance. She can write poems, but not so good at plays.

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