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Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Everyman - Beware Spoilers

Everyman, Everyman - you are a foxy little minx of a play.  Odd words to begin a piece about what is usually described as a somber play, a solemn play, a play that is - basically - about death.  But to me, as performer of the text, it is a foxy little minx, because it is teasing me with possibilities.
Now, before I go on let me just warn you about spoilers.  I know, this isn't the latest series of Homeland or something similar, this is a five hundred year old play, but the staging of it will be revealed in some detail throughout the next couple of months.  Or the possible staging - some of the ideas mooted here will be dropped or changed, but probably not all that many.  So, if you want to be surprised, stop reading now.
Also, if you want to see the show, book now.  I don't mean this in the usual "please book tickets to validate my life/cover my expenses" way, but in the "I've had to reduce the number of seats available and the show will probably sell out" kind of way.  At present my artistic side is doing battle with my business side, and the art is winning.  I have yet to measure precisely how many seats I will be able to sell, but it isn't going to be many.  If you listen carefully, you can hear my wallet screaming.

So, onto the play.  The Summoning of Everyman has been on the to do list for years.  It has everything I love about an old play - it's simple, it has few characters, it's short.  And it has a cameo appearance for Death, always welcome in any play.  You just can't fail with Death, the dialogue is always cracking - just ask Terry Pratchett.  But it also is a trixy play.  It looks like it is simple, but actually it gets a bit complicated towards the end, all these extra characters appear, and how do you make it connect to people today?  Sure, death is a universal theme, but the play is explicitly Catholic in doctrine, medieval Catholicism to be precise - so there are elements of the play that are alien to us today, even to Catholics.  (Everyman does scourge himself at one point, it's the kind of thing most churches have quietly dropped.)
I've spent years trying to find a route into the text, a way of performing it.  And last year, I found it.  I was in the middle of rehearsing Ghost Storyteller and I wanted a break.  I needed to do text work, but needed to get away from that text.  So, I picked up Everyman and started to read it aloud.  It is a brilliant text, it almost works as an epic poem, if it wasn't for some of the more fiddly bits.  But as I read it, I imagined what it would be like if I was performing it, not just to an audience of many, but to an individual.  If I took someone by the hand and said, they were the character Fellowship, say.  That I talked to them as Everyman, and spoke out as Fellowship to a bigger audience.  That way I could not only make it clear to the audience who all the characters were - there would physically be a person there - but also keep the humanity of it by talking to someone; that this connection would not just be a way of performing a multi-person play as a one person play, but be something that took the play further; that made the play moving and direct in a way that a normal production could not.  I had my hook - this is to be an immersive piece of theatre, interactive.
There will be four layers to the interactivity... as it were.
Firstly, the space will be arranged in traverse, that is the audience will be on two sides facing each other.  The performance area will be a thin catwalk between them.  At no point will the audience be able to escape the reality of the rest of the audience.
Secondly, I will ask the audience to help with something simple, something they can do as they enter the space, something that doesn't worry them.  I'm not sure what this is yet, but it won't be complicated or performed as theatre, it will be something personal.  I don't want this act make people afraid to come, if you just want to sit and watch that will be fine, but it would be nice to find something non-invasive that everyone can do.
Thirdly, I will invite a few people (volunteers) to stand and be acknowledged by the room to be a character in the play.  Literally all they will be asked to do is stand, when asked to, and I will talk to them.  And then sit down again.  This is for the less faint of heart.
Fourthly, I will invite a few people (again volunteers) to be guided by me, to be moved through the space, to sit and even (in one case) lie down on some cushions.  This will be for the enthusiastic and bendable members of the audience.
There is always a slight risk that no one will agree to do the third or fourth actions.  This would be a shame, but I have got a plan B.  But if you come to the show and are willing to give to it, then it will be ten times the show it would be if you didn't. As it were.
So, Everyman, you foxy little minx, what else have you got for me?

NEXT BLOG:  Introductions, Dancing and the performance of God in the play.

Monday, 21 January 2013

The Obligatory New Year Message 2013

A belated Happy New Year!  I've been quiet for a while, after a short dose of unwellness over Christmas I'm back with a normal dose of busyness.  So, what's new for 2013, what am I going to cook up for you next?  Regular readers of my blog will know that this time of year is full of promises from me that end up as fodder for my Seldom Plan - see earlier blog here.  However, that doesn't mean that it all disappears, that it all is a lie.  I wouldn't lie to you dear reader, it's just the universe moves on.  So, here are a few plans for the year ahead.

The Summoning of Everyman.  This is a beautiful medieval morality play which I'm hoping to tour in churches round the country sometime towards the end of the year.  I'm trying out the staging for two nights at the Lavenham Guildhall on Wednesday 27th and Thursday 28th March and I'm really excited about it.  It will be simple but hopefully deeply moving, an a little bit different to a normal staging of the play.  It'll be an interactive performance, which means I'll be working directly with the audience to bring them closer to the story.  Full details below - do get in touch if you'd like to be part of the story.

The Shakespeare Delusion.  I'm primarily planning to tour this play next year, though I will look for a few try outs towards the autumn,  Whenever and wherever it will end up, I'll be working on in on and off from now.  A whole years worth of development, which is rather exciting.  Unlike the tryout version in Lavenham last year, I intend this production to have a full sound design, set and projection work to make it into something altogether more exciting.

Writing.  I know, it's an exciting boast, a writer is going to do some writing.  For the next six months or so I will be mostly writing and planning more writing.  Don't ask me what - I've so many ideas that are fighting for inclusion - but I want to have written something new by the summer, either monologue for full play.

Other things... yes, a bit vague, but I do have one other exciting project up my sleeve, but it's super top secret for the moment.

That's all for now - full details of Everyman below - enjoy.

Milk Bottle Productions Presents...
The Summoning of Everyman
Adapted and performed by Robert Crighton

The Summoning of Everyman is a powerful morality tale, written in the late medieval period, telling of the struggles for one man, for everyman, to let go of his life.  This interactive performance brings this struggle directly to the audience, asking them to become part of the story, asking them to stand in the footsteps of Fellowship, Good Deeds and even Death himself.  It’s a question that each generation has to answer: can you really take anything with you after death?  Moving, beautiful and though provoking – ultimately the Summoning comes to Everyone.

Get Involved: we’re looking for a number of audience members to be part of the show – don’t worry this isn’t Pantomime, there are no songs or catchphrases.  Volunteers would be brought on stage and moved by Robert as characters in the story – you get the best seats in the house and a performance that is personally addressed to you.  No acting skills required, just to stand, sit and be yourself, guided by Robert through the story.
If you’re interested then buy your ticket via Ticket Source, then send an email to us at – or call 07704 704 469 for more information.

Performing Wednesday 27th & Thursday 28th March 2013
Show starts 7.30pm, doors open 7pm - Tickets £8, includes refreshment
The Lavenham Guildhall, The Market Square, Lavenham
Box Office: 0844 8700 887 or book online:
(Telephone box office hours 9.00am – 7.00pm Mondays –Fridays
(excluding Bank Holidays) and 9.00am – 5.00pm on Saturdays.)
Box Office Number for bookings only, any general enquiries please call
07704 704 469 or email: