Everyman, Underbelly, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013
Everyman - or The Somonyng of Everyman - is a late 15th-century English morality play that examines the question of 'Christian salvation and what Man must do to obtain it'. The 'good and evil deeds of one's life will be tallied by God after death, as in a ledger book. Everyman represents all of mankind and is told, by death, that he has to account for his life to God. In the hope of improving his own account Everyman tries to convince others to make this journey with him. And in the process learns 'a man will only have his Good Deeds to accompany him beyond the grave.'
Everyman felt like the type of travelling show that would go from small town to small town in the 19th Century bringing a brilliant and amazing show to the lives of an unsuspecting audience. Within that hour the audience is shown something punishingly beautiful performed by a troupe who’s singular goal seems to be to enlighten the their lives and bringing them a joy that remains long after they've gone.
One has to detach oneself for a moment to see the magic that this company creates. The feeling of happiness that is filling the room as we take our seats at the start is somewhat palpable. Their interaction with the audience from start lowers any inhibition they may have allowing them to really connect to Everyman's story.
There is a huge amount of humour and some great comedy in the show with Splendid's unique style. The planed and unplanned banter with the audience gives the show a deeper realism that offers up something even more original. From the songs that punctuate the show to the ‘7 Things That Make Us The Same’ which arch’s the show.
The three performers are wonderfully dynamic and manage to seamlessly interact with the audience whilst ensuring the balance between the plays humour and seriousness is maintained. Though the story may come from the 15th Century there are lessons within 'Everyman' that are still relevant today. And that, I guess, is the delightful power of 'Everyman'.
Splendid Productions have a flare for this type of theatre. Interactive, funny and inventive the hour flashes by but by the time the play finishes Splendid have certainly left an indelible impression with you.
What happens when you bring a new adaptation of the 15th century morality play, which explores themes of death to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe? Well, many things can happen when Splendid Productions bring their new adaptation of Everyman* to the city: God may give the audience a sharp telling off; there may be singing and dancing, but an unforgettable Fringe experience will be had by all.
Performed by Kerry Frampton, Nikki Warwick and Scott Gilmour, this perfect trio takes the audience on a journey through the life of the eponymous Everyman, who represents all of mankind, and must answer to God for all the good and evil deeds he committed in his life. But this allegorical journey features what the original play doesn’t: song, dance, mime and general, wonderful silliness.
Adapted from the anonymously-written original by Frampton, and directed by Mal Smith, Lucy Cuthbertson and Matt Wilde, Everyman takes the audience on a wildly entertaining, yet emotional journey through the contradictions, wants and failures of man, creating a piece that is a joyous celebration of humanity, and a triumph of physical theatre.
What would you do if Death dropped by one day to tell you that you have been chosen to represent all of humanity before God the Almighty and you realised that your record so far might not be the best? That’s exactly what happens to Everyman, a selfish idiot loaded with money but short of friends, in this highly entertaining performance set to explore just what makes us all human - unique, but alike at the same time.
The show, because this genuinely is a performance with a high show factor, opens up with a musical number entitled ‘Seven Things That Make Us The Same’. No.1 is Death, which is where our story starts. God asks his loyal servant Death to choose someone to represent humanity before him and he picks Everyman. Short on time, Everyman must go on a quest to find someone who can accompany him on his journey but to nobody’s surprise, volunteers for this kind of pilgrimage are hard to find especially if all you have done in your life is gather wealth and reject your friends and family. As Everyman’s desperation increases, Death draws closer, allowing both Everyman himself and the audience to see just how little material possessions matter when facing the Almighty.
This is nothing short of a wonderful production, high on laughs, yet with a subtle seriousness to it that only enhances the overall feeling of perfection. Kerry Frampton is fantastic in her part as Everyman, as are Nikki Warwick and Scott Gilmour in filling the parts of the remaining characters. In mixing elements from theatre, musicals, cabarets and sketch comedy, the talented cast leaves the audience roaring with laughter as they run about stage, trying to save Everyman from facing Death and his final judgment alone.
The combination of a wonderfully witty script, a great storyline and superb acting makes this an all-round joyous experience. The musical numbers are great and the actors skillfully include the audience in their performance through what can only be described as a perfect amount of improvisation. However, despite the silliness, the show has a darker and more serious undertone. This is beautifully communicated both in the beginning and towards the end, as the three performers quietly starts singing, ‘There is one certainty, one certain certainty, and that certain certainty is death’, reminding us all that Everyman’s journey is inevitably one we all have to take.
‘There is one certain certainty in the world and that is death’. A pretty heavy statement to make before midday on a grey Tuesday morning but adding some music and a charming cast of three actors this contemporary adaptation of a 15th Century tale captures the audience with its vivacity and fast-paced narrative resulting in belly aching laughter throughout.
The play is concerned primarily with what makes us who we are and the impact our actions have on the world and the people around us. After God summons Death to choose one man to be accountable for his sins and represent the human race by giving up his life to be judged before Him, a fun-filled roller-coaster of songs, dance, mime and emotions are used to highlight the plight of a man filled with the knowledge that he is now at the end of his journey in the world. The fun is that he is not just any man but Everyman. Everyman was ruled by his senses which outweighed the good deeds that he did. In order to stand before God he must re-write the wrong doings of his past and understand the mistakes he made in order to find eternal peace.
The clever thing about Everyman is that with characters named Everyman, Strength, Beauty and Friendship it can create an impersonal feel but it is the acting that makes the performance so real and intimate. This does add a moral aspect to the play but very indirectly so. The play is not concerned with preaching to the audience; in fact one of the greatest highlights was the excellent audience interaction from the three characters, in particular Kerry Frampton. Frampton performs excellently throughout the play, all three actors do, but her skill at making you believe the plight of Everyman was exceptional.
The Seven Things That Make Us The Same was a particular highlight which notable reference to the 5 Senses and 7 Ages of Man sequence. The whole production was thrilling from start to end and the small stage and even the audience floor space were well used in order to bring the story more to life. The props, the music, the acting, the writing, the costumes and the excellent spirit of the audience and actors a like all contribute in making this a play with meaning but with a heavy dose of fun filled laughter and song that would brighten up anyone’s day.
A cheery, dazzling morality play about death. One person is to go before God and represent all humanity, and it is not a coincidence that this Everyman is a cowardly wheedling narcissist. The three performers make this old and morbid tale profound, fun, and warm – even with regular calls of “Exit Friendship! Exit Strength!”. Their flow is both improvised and confident, graceful and clownish. They use the audience a lot, and well – we can always be depended upon to be mute embarrassed stooges. The atmosphere recalls Tim Burton – jauntily Gothic – except that Splendid Productions are good. Best of all are their seven interludes on human universals: funny, full of musical slapstick, and keeping the show’s momentum up.