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.
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
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.
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.