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You are in: Norfolk » Going Out » Stage

08 May 2003 1116 BST
Picture: Lyn McKinney. Everyman

review by: Lyn McKinney

This production rated: Graphic: 3 stars out of 5.

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Pic: Simon Callow rehearses with the cast of Everyman.
Simon Callow rehearses with the cast of Everyman
It feels right to watch Everyman's struggle to come to terms with death, in a place that's nearly as old as the play, writes Lyn Mckinney.

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I am spookily aware that this is how audiences might have watched Everyman back in Shakespeare's times. 

It is theatre in the round in the middle of St. Andrews Hall, where a large raised circular dais serves as a stage for the action. 

Entrances are from everywhere and anywhere, but those unfortunates who booked for seats with their backs to the orchestra and choir at the organ end, must have had a permanent crick in their necks.

Nevertheless, a worthy performance of one of the oldest morality plays of all time, reunited with the incidental music Sibelius wrote specially for it.

It also seems fitting that we, as the Norwich community, are watching the People's Theatre perform the play that launched the Maddermarket 82 years ago.  

Pic: An actor goes over his lines
An actor goes over his lines under the watchful eye of director Simon Callow

The story of Everyman is timeless, in that every generation can identify with the human condition of complete panic, faced with imminent death, and no way out. 

What's more, he is called to account for his life which is to date, not filled with charitable good works and there's a good chance he'll end up on the wrong side of the fence.

Where are his fun-loving  party friends, his close family now? Who will undertake his final journey with him?  It's time for the reckoning.  

It feels right to watch Everyman's struggle to come to terms with death, in a place that's nearly as old as the play. 

As the light falls outside the stained glass windows, the theatre lighting burns on his face. David Reeves seems helpless, and very alone and impressive in his hour of despair, when he finally calls for the only person who can help him, Good Deeds. 

Played beautifully by Peter Beck, this character is quietly dying, because Everyman's good deeds have been so few.  His sister, Knowledge, confidently played by Emma Wyatt, must help Everyman to balance his life books. 

Pic: Simon Callow in rehearsal.
Simon Callow in rehearsal

It seems a pity we see and hear so little of Simon Callow, whose voice of the deity resonates around the Hall at the start. But it is to him we owe the direction of the production.

It's also down to Simon Callow that the London Mozart Players are playing the evocative incidental music written by Sibelius, which dips and soars, lifting and dampening the mood. 

When the end comes, it is with the full force of their instruments, complete with chimes, horns, trumpets and organ.  The Viva Voce Singers, a local chamber choir, provide profoundly moving harmonics, interwoven into the musical tapestry.

My seat is in the second row and I had no difficulty whatever in hearing every word, but I wonder if the acoustics of the Hall tend to obliterate the dialogue for those towards the back. 

It feels like a one-off experience, which I wouldn't have missed for the world, but there is another performance tonight - this time in the circus ring of the Hippodrome in Great Yarmouth.  Perhaps these two venues have more in common than we think.


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