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Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Everyman - Opening Speech

Been playing around with a new microphone and have produced this little recording of the opening speech from Everyman.  A little taster, as it were.

listen to ‘The Summoning of Everyman - Messenger’ on Audioboo

BEWARE SPOILERS, IF YOU ARE COMING TO THE SHOW, (BOOK TICKETS HERE) THEN STOP READING.  Well, it's two weeks to go, and rehearsals are hotting up... or they would if it would stop snowing.  My rehearsal space has primitive heating and I think bits of me may drop off if the temperature doesn't increase soon.  (No, not that bit... it's not that kind of show!)
I am now working heavily on the middle to end sections of the play.  For those following the blog, I've discussed the events of the play up to the rejection of Everyman by his Goods - or rather his final realisation that he can't take anything from his life with him.  (Or rather he thinks it's his final realisation, he's got another few to go.)
Having given up on the worldly for help, he goes to the more abstract Good Deeds.  Unfortunately for Everyman his Good Deeds are so few that they're weak and practically dead.  The play has Good Deeds "cold in the ground" - but for my version she (and she is referred to as female - a whole other blog there) is in a wheelchair.  Good Deeds introduces Everyman to Knowledge - and I've assumed that this is religious understanding, rather than the Encyclopedia Britannica.  In the original this was another character, but I've made Knowledge into an object, a small copy of the New Testament, which Everyman now carries.  He is then introduced to Confession who instructs Everyman to scourge himself.
Now, this is the part where the religious propaganda element comes on a bit strong.  Whereas before the text could be said to be universal, now the text is very specific.  That said, these days I don't think even the Catholic church goes in for scourging, so I wanted to find something a bit different.  Spoiler alert, by the way.  As Everyman prepares to scourge himself he makes a long speech, during which I'm going to collect good deeds from the audience.  Everyman has a book of reckoning, in which his good and bad deeds in his life are collected.  The book is blank, there are no good deeds in it, that's why the character Good Deeds is so weak.  So, as the audience comes in at the top of the show, they are given post-it notes to write a good deed on.  As Everyman makes his speech, he collects them in and puts them in the book of reckoning.  Also, as the audience comes in, they are asked to write bad deeds onto a t-shirt, anything they like, and it is this that Everyman wears for the first half of the show.  When he has collected in the good deeds he strips off the bad deeds - the t-shirt - and beats, not himself, but the floor, making the act of scourging more symbolic and less creepy.  This done, Good Deeds is strong enough to get out of her wheelchair.
Neat, huh?
Not only that, Good Deeds then offers Everyman (this is in the text, not added by me) "a garment of sorrow... Contrition it is" which Everyman now wears for the rest of the show.
Even neater.
Now, just got to make it work.  Because none of that is as easy to actually do as it sounds - if nothing else, because Good-Deeds is a member of the audience and will need to be lead through any actions required.

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 thought 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 contact@milkbottleproductions.co.uk – 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:  www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/31683
(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: contact@milkbottleproductions.co.uk
Website:  www.milkbottleproductions.co.uk

Friday, 22 February 2013

Everyman - The Yawn of Bagpuss

Sadly I will not be writing about Zebras today.  Future Robert will deal with this.
So, back to The Summoning of Everyman.  I've touched on the opening of the play, the arrival of God - now to Death and some of the other 'characters'.  Because, as this is a morality play, the characters are allegorical.  They represent different elements of man's character, his life, of humanity itself.  So Everyman represents Every Man - or person, as we would say today - rather than an individual.  'He' meets the embodiment of Fellowship - all his friends - and Kinship - all his relations - and even of his Goods - the wealth and possessions he owns.  All these 'people' he asks to come with him as he makes his journey towards death, all forsake him.  You can't take it all with you.  Thus appeareth the moral.
Which makes it all sound terribly dull - but it isn't.  Each character has... character.  So, first off, Everyman meets Death.
Such fun.  Death is great.  He turns up at God's command and generally puts the fear of... well... death... into Everyman.  I've been playing around with how to perform Death, and at first decided that he will be a voice, a disembodied voice that Everyman hears.  So, I've been playing around with microphones, loud hailers and even voice transformers to see what effects work best.  Though I like the slight amplification, I am unsure about changing the pitch of the voice - it's currently sounding more demonic than Deathly.  So, I continue to see what else might work.  Physically he is distorted, spiky - the emphasis is on the bone structure.  And Death smiles.  He smiles a big rictus grin.  Because he doesn't have any flesh, and skulls always grin.
Again, such fun.  And I'm finally books down on Death (I would just like to mention, again, how much I HATE learning lines.  I hate it.  Even when it's Death.) so I'm really getting to play around with my favourite character in the universe.  Because Death always wins.
Having met Death, Everyman is scared witless.  The speech he makes after Death disappears is heartrending.  He despairs.  It is a very similar speech to that of Doctor Faustus, in the play of the same name, by Christopher Marlowe, and I am convinced Kit must have been influenced by Everyman.  There are references to time passing, very similar phrasing - I've wanted to do the two plays back to back for ages.  In fact, we can add this to the list of Seldom Plans, I might actually look to do it, sometime in the future.
Everyman pulls himself back from the brink by remembering his friends - Fellowship - who he's gone out and had fun with throughout his life.  Perhaps they'll go with him?  Fellowship is all hail and hearty, (I've given him a tankard of beer to drink) and would love to help Everyman.  Until he finds out where he's going, at which point he starts using the word 'But' quite a lot.  I'm stretching that 'But', "I'd love to help buuuuu-t", in the way we all are capable of when we try to worm our way out of things.
Next Everyman things to drag a relative along.  Kindred/Cousin are two parts in the original play, but they say similar things so they are but one in mine.  They are really cheerful, really happy people, especially when sending Everyman off to go to his death alone.  It is cheerful betrayal.
Finally, for the first half of the play, Everyman talks with his Goods, his riches, asking if they will go with him.  They will not, if for no other reason, but that his greed in hording his wealth will damn him.  Goods is the embodiment of both greed and sloth.  He is indolent, never moves, doesn't get up.  I've decided that Goods is an evil Bagpuss, mostly yawning as he sits and laughs at Everyman and his problem.  I know, Bagpuss and I have history (see earlier blog), so that is a bit of a joke.  Don't take that too literally.  I won't dress up as Bagpuss or anything.  But the yawn will be there.  The yawn will probably be pure Bagpuss.
Only five weeks or so to go - book those tickets now.  And remember, it is a show where I want you to get involved - nothing scary, just to hold things and maybe move about.  Like in a promenade play, just you get to sit most the time.  Get in touch if you're interest, details below.

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 thought 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 contact@milkbottleproductions.co.uk – 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:  www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/31683
(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: contact@milkbottleproductions.co.uk
Website:  www.milkbottleproductions.co.uk


Thursday, 7 February 2013

Everyman - Playing God

Rehearsals for Everyman are now getting serious.  It's less, let's throw exciting ideas around, more - LEARN YOUR LINES!  I hate learning lines, but you just can't make this stuff up as you go along.  It's in verse and there are rhymes, you'd notice.  So, I'm just going over the words at the moment, as well as doing all that staging stuff.  I had a nice trip to the venue - the delightful Lavenham Guildhall - to see how well my traverse staging will work.  Rather well, I think.  And, despite what I said last week, actually the number of tickets available will not be quite so small.  We can comfortably fit 45 people a night.  That said, tickets have started to sell, so don't hang around.
So, learning lines.  First learnt was the prologue.  That was easy.  It's direct, told to the audience.  In this performance it will follow an opening section that will involve dancing.  Yup.  Me... dancing.  And six t-shirts.  And dodgy disco lighting.  But more on that for a later blog - one all about transitions.
But this week I've just finished learning God and in the next few days will move onto Death.  It's got all the best people in it, Everyman.  Honestly, Death is pretty easy to do, but God is a challenge, how do you present God on stage?
Firstly, the text for God is quite interesting - because though the character is labelled as God, he refers to experiences had by Jesus.  This is the kind of mash up that the late medieval drama did - there is a similar confusion / cross over in Last Judgement Corpus Christi plays - God appears and then hands over to Jesus, but both are referred to as God.  Or Deus.  He is both God and the son of God.  I'm not going to go into the nature of the Trinity, such matters are beyond me, but having a figure on stage who refers to himself as both God ("...they know me not for their God.") and by implication Jesus ("... with thorns hurt my head.") is problematic for a performer.  God looks over all, his viewpoint is more general; Jesus has the added mix of humanity.  So whilst God may look on mankind as a disappointment, be angry at their turning on his laws, Jesus feels the betrayal, felt the pain of death.  One is distant, one is close.
God's speech in the play is rather brilliant, because it can go both ways.  It has a slightly petulant quality of the creator who has been turned against, the law maker who sees his laws ignored, but also a visceral sense of the pain of betrayal.  "I could do no more than I did, truly."  He tried so hard to make mankind good, truly.  Really.  When I first ran this speech I found tears came, that sense of betrayal and disappointment very powerful.
But then at other times I felt more distant - the omnipotent angry God came out instead.  Mankind is only interested in sin, God must interfere because they are becoming nothing more than "beasts".  It's harsh stuff.
So, how to perform it?  Which way will I jump?  I don't know, yet.  I know it won't be a flamboyant performance.  He won't be performed, as probably was in the original, in flowing robes and golden mask or crown or similar.  There maybe no essential costume change at all.  He will be essentially static, probably performed standing high on a box, at one end of the space.  After the busyness of the opening of the show I think he needs to be staged simply, just letting the words speak.  And those words call forth Death, and Death, well he's a very different kind of character.
But more on him next time.