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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.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Everyman - One Week To Go

Well, got to the end of the play properly, at last.  Finally, Everyman has crawled to his inevitable death.  I'm now in the delightful position of going over the play, in detail, rather than forcing words into my head.
As regulars to this blog will know, Everyman has just been offered a "garment of sorrow".  Now he's introduced to three new friends (on his way to his inevitable death): Strength, Five-Wits (his five senses) and Beauty.  There was a fourth, Discretion, but frankly I couldn't see precisely what it represented - considerably more abstract than the other three - so I cut him.  Together they go towards Everyman's inevitable death, with his Good-Deeds and his Knowledge, of course.  The text refers to them taking hold of a "rood" (which presumably is supposed to be a cross, but I have changed it to "rod") with which he guides them, so I've used a walking stick, so that when Everyman reaches his death he is literally in old age and leaning on his stick.
Those who know the text will be wondering where the priest has gone.  I've cut the section where Everyman goes to a priest and essentially has his last rites, for two reasons. 1. It's incredibly difficult to stage and 2. it's a step too far in away from a generalised moral theme and direct religious propaganda.  At no point towards the end of the play can the audience miss the Christian message, but like political drama, there comes a point where having it rammed down your throat, jars - even for believers.  (It was also a bit dull.)
So, at the cusp of his inevitable death, Everyman's Strength, Beauty and Five-Wits - and at the very last moment, Knowledge - all forsake him.  He's left to crawl into his grave with just his Good-Deeds.  And thus he dies a good person.
Not only have I now crossed the barrier of pain when I comes to learning the lines - specifically the end of the play - I have also finally decided how to open it.  But that is my little secret.
One week... lot's of work to do... but I am only able to do so much.  Because this is an interactive show, because I'm asking audience members to join me onstage to represent the characters of the story, I can't quite rehearse how the show will be.  I genuinely don't know whether it will work.  I don't even know if this way of telling a story has been done before.  It almost certainly has, (I'm against theatre companies saying they're groundbreaking when they so aren't) but I haven't actually come across it anywhere.  So, for me at least, this is an adventure.
And there are very few tickets available - so book now!



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

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Everyman - Good and Bad Deeds


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.  Have a listen to the opening speech from Everyman here.

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.
And I need to decide - what am I wearing underneath the t-shirt?


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