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Sunday, 13 October 2013

New Knowledge

Now that I have a blog dedicated to plays before Shakespeare, I'm a bit torn on where to post about The Summoning of Everyman.  I started here, with the one man version I performed over Easter which I am currently reviving.  I've decided to keep any active rehearsal of play posts on this blog, to continue the narrative, and write a compilation meta post for the other place.
So, I'm now into full rehearsal for Everyman again and it's good to be back.  Less than two weeks now before performing in London and I'm overhauling the whole text, going back to originals, looking at line readings and looking to see if there's any material I want to put back into the show.
I've cut, for the most part, very little.  As it's for one person, I've tried to rationalise some of the dialogue, making some of it into longer speeches, rather than back and forth.  There are only a couple of bits that I'm thinking of putting back in, but maybe only for a later performance, as I don't want to throw myself this close to the first show.
However, I did make one huge cut.  It's towards the end of the play, where Everyman is encouraged to see a priest and receive last rites and forgiveness before heading to his grave.  As he does this, two other characters discuss the goodness of this act and of priests in general.  There were three reasons why this had to go.
1. I spend most of the play as Everyman, stepping into other parts.  The idea that I could feasibly work a scene where he isn't technical present was too much to ask the audience to swallow.  Clarity was important.
2. One of the characters speaking was Knowledge - who I cut as a speaking role.  Knowledge became a visual symbol, a book that Everyman is given - and much of his dialogue was reassigned.
3. It's one thing to have a play that discusses the morality of doing good through a Christian lens, it is quite another to present what reads as direct propaganda.  It was just too obvious an exhortation, telling not showing, and had to go as it stood in the play.
So cut it was, and, also being very worthy and so the dullest part of the play - there is nothing at stake in the dialogue - it wasn't missed.  But I hated taking out such a large chunk of the play, even for good reasons, and I kept thinking about it.  And then I had an idea.
Irritatingly it came as I was watching an encore cinema broadcast of Eugene Onegin, which I was enjoying very much, until my brain defocused from the drama and played the idea around in different variations.

Play the text as a pre-show performance, play it as a street preacher, play it as speakers corner.

This adds two benefits - one, if gives the audience something to watch whilst some of the fiddly pre-show business is sorted (they have to write down their good and bad deeds) and two, it gives the speech bite - because then the character has a reason to be giving the speech, beyond discussing theology with someone else.  He is exhorting people to save their souls.  He cares.  We, the audience, however, are distanced.  The speech stops being worthy, it becomes something else.  It'll say something about a character, albeit one who is not in the play - unless I make him the same character as the Doctor who opens and closes the play, which I will look at when I rehearse it.
I haven't finished cutting the two speeches into one yet and I won't be using it in London on the 26th October (probably) and I may give up on the idea - but I think it has legs and it will restore to the play the full (ish) text.
Of course, I'll have changed the nature of the text, but the live shows are not about rigid conformity to the original source.  That is, to some degree, what the online Before Shakespeare project is about.  And that's why this post is on this blog, not in the other place.

Milk Bottle Productions Presents...
The Summoning of Everyman
An Immersive Theatre Production
Adapted and performed by Robert Crighton

The Summoning of Everyman is a powerful morality tale, written by an unknown author in the late medieval period, telling of the struggles for one man, for every man, 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 thought provoking – ultimately the Summoning comes to Everyone.

This is an immersive performance, everyone will be asked to help create the show in various simple ways.  Don’t worry this isn’t Pantomime, there are no songs or catchphrases.  The audience is moved around the space by Robert as characters in the story – the performance is personally addressed to you.  No acting skills required, just to stand, sit and be yourself, guided by Robert through the story.

Tickets are Pay-What-You-Want, so you choose at the end of the show how much you want to give for the show at the end.  For general booking enquiries us at – or call 07704 704 469.

Performing Saturday 26th October at 7.00pm
Doors open 6.30pm, show starts 7.00pm – NO ADMITTANCE FOR LATECOMERS
The London Theatre - New Cross, The Lower Space, 443 New Cross Road, London, SE14 6TA
Tickets Available from -

WHAT THE AUDIENCE SAID: Guildhall Lavenham, Easter 2013

“We were so impressed... Robert Crighton is a one man tour de force he has you gripped from start to finish.”  DC Starpop

“A rewarding experience both as an audience member and a participant!  A fascinating interpretation of this medieval morality tale and I recommend it highly... a compelling one man show.”  Nick Elliott

“Touching and inspirational.”  Phil Hope

“With absolute ease he made the text accessible to a contemporary audience...” David Owen-Bell

“I would certainly recommend Robert and this 5 star performance to Everyman and Woman!!   A truly sensational performance by Robert!”  Dan

“... a compelling and engaging piece of storytelling...”  Annie Eddington

"A veritable tour de force..."  Rev. Stephen Earl

“Great acting, and what a memory!”  Arthur

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