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Sunday, 31 March 2013

After Everyman

The schedule prior to the first night of a show is usually fairly straightforward.
Monday - last tweaks, tech run.
Tuesday - last, last tweaks, dress run.
Wednesday - last, last, last tweaks, first performance.

The schedule for Everyman ran something like this:
Monday - 12.30am, get up with indigestion.
                2am, begin vomiting.  Continue vomiting/dry retching for five hours.
                7am onwards, try to sleep.
Tuesday - 11am, attempt food.  Nibble corner of toast.
                2pm.  Finish eating first slice of toast.  Sleep.
Wednesday - 11am.  Manage second slice of toast.
                1pm, get out of bed, start pulling props together for show.
                4pm, eat nourishing soup.  Shower.
                5.15pm, arrive at Guildhall.  Set up show.
                7pm, doors open.  Audience arrive.
                7.30pm, down some codine, begin show.

As you may have gathered, the gentle progress of running the show a few times, working on certain scenes, ironing out any remaining line issues, were completely blown away by a bout of gastroenteritis.  And yet, somehow, the show worked.  Did more than work, I think.
I was more than a little nervous about the show before the illness, because I wasn't sure if the audience participation was going to work.  To start with it didn't look like it would.  As the audience came in I asked them to write on a red shirt, my costume, a bad deed, and on a post-it note, a good deed.  Explaining this was a little messy - it really needed a team of people to help the crowd of people through it.  Not so much a problem the first night, where the audience arrived at neat intervals, but a rugby scrum on the second, when everyone arrived at once.  As it were.
The good deeds people wrote fairly quickly and are, as is the nature of anything that sounds a bit worthy, less interesting than the bad.  The good are interesting in terms of what people considered to be a good deed - from the abstract, to the concrete, to the occasional submission that frankly didn't fit the brief.  All are documented and the photos are at the bottom of this blog.
The bad deeds are more fun, the audience allowing their imaginations fly a bit.  Some are fantastical and cruel, some are truly wicked and yet also very human and believable.  It took some people ages to come up with a bad deed, some taking the task very seriously indeed.  My favourite raises an interesting question as to what is a bad deed?  "Not listening when someone is pouring their heart out."  Now, yes, perhaps this is bad, but it suggests the other person doesn't know you're not listening.  You're still there.  Really, what more do they want?  Is that truly bad?  Answers on a postcard.
The atmosphere in the performance space was very positive; as I talked through what the volunteers would have to do, there was lots of back chat and a sense that people were expectant, not uncomfortable with what was about to happen.
The show began.  The opening, a little dance of death which involved carrying a large tree trunk across stage, goes well.  Only the exertion has completely dried out my mouth, so that my first speech becomes a rearguard action of trying to get some moisture going.  I haven't run the show for nearly three days, so I have to get through the first long speeches well to feel comfortable in the show.  Bar one odd jump of a line, I do. We're into open country.  Death talks to Everyman and BAM.  Dry, epic dry.  What comes next?  What comes after next?  What happens at the end of the scene even?  Who am I?  What is my purpose in life?  Come on brain... give me a crumb, something to say, anything... and out comes the next line.  (I only find out it's the next line in retrospect, I believe at the time I must have jumped something - but always go forward, never go back.)  And now, the next hurdle.  Audience interaction.
The character Fellowship has been given to a chap I don't know - much of the audience is made of friends, but Fellowship is an unknown.  He seems enthusiastic.  This could mean he will attempt to do too much... he is first.  I indicate him to come forward, hand him a tankard.  I assume a stance, as his character, and he assumes it too.  And holds it.  Fantastic.  Then, when I talk to him as Everyman, he reacts.  Not a lot, just a little bit.  The man's a natural.  I relax a bit, this presentational device is going to work.  And so it does, even for the more complex stuff later on.
From then on, it generally goes well.  I have only one more big dry, at the end of a section, so I do some prop holding action stuff, before it comes to me.  The show ends.  Applause.  Generally a good response.  Audience members help tidy up and I go home to an egg.  I dearly wanted to have a natter in the pub with the audience, but I can't drink anymore and I needed sleep.
The second night was like the first, just different.  The audience was a bit bigger and the red shirt was now bristling with bad deeds from two audiences.  It also smelt terrible by halfway through the show, but that's what corruption and sin will do to you.
The Summoning of Everyman at the Lavenham Guildhall wasn't perfect, circumstances put paid to that, but it will be the basis for a beautiful show that I will perform wherever there is the right venue and audience for it.  This isn't the announcement of a general tour, because I will only perform it if the space is right, and that kind of scouting is time consuming.  I expect to pull together two or three dates for the autumn.  Perhaps I'll see you there, with your good and bad deeds.

And talking of good deeds...

"Be Helpful" - a useful general good deed hint.

One of these things is not like the other...

And now, your bad deeds!

To avoid going out for a meal...

The top two here are so very human...

Who hasn't coveted their neighbour's shed?

Odd cat theme developing here...

Don't want to know what was done to this toilet.  Just don't want to know.

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