What’s it all about?
This is a morality play written so long ago – we’re talking older than Shakespeare – that its author is unknown. It’s about Everyman, an individual representative of all mankind, who comes face to face with Death (literally, Death is one of the characters). As he’s made to realise his wrongdoings in life, Everyman sets out on a path for redemption with the help of a troupe of allegorical characters (Passion, Strength, Vanity… you get the gist), only to realise that this is something he must face alone.
That’s what the play is about… sort of…
In Carol Ann Duffy’s adaptation, which is directed by the National Theatre’s new Director Rufus Norris, Everyman – Ev for short – is also a coke-snorting, shot-downing party animal who is forced to confront Death on one hell of a hangover.
Who’s in it?
Chiwetel Ejiofor, in his first London stage performances since 2013’s A Season In The Congo, takes on the title role, charting Everyman’s journey from selfish and unappreciative hedonist to a humbler figure who looks back on his life with painful regret. The Oscar nominee exerts a powerful stage presence – no less when he enters by descending from the ceiling – and tackles Duffy’s lyrical lines and Javier Du Frutos’ quirky choreography with aplomb.
Among Ejiofor’s fellow cast members are Dermot Crowley as a flippant, beanie-sporting Irish incarnation of Death and Sharon D Clarke, who raises the most laughs with a line about giving birth to a lesbian in the role of Everyman’s mother.
The production runs at 100 minutes, but one cast member who works longer hours than the rest is Kate Duchêne, whose presence is felt from the moment you enter the auditorium. But then again she is God – albeit in the form of a haggard cleaning lady – and she does need to sweep up after yet another of Everyman’s all-night benders.
What should I look out for?
An eye-boggling, visually spectacular opening scene that involves choreographed cocaine-snorting, rapping and Ejiofor dangling in mid-air.
A soundtrack so mixed it includes everything from Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass to Auld Lang Syne and everything in between. And I mean everything!
Your hat… if you’re wearing one. Things get a little bit windy.
In a nutshell?
Hardcore clubbing meets one man’s journey for redemption in Rufus Norris’ first production as Director of the National Theatre.
What’s being said on Twitter?
@mattblak Saw #ntEveryman yesterday. Blistering production of a very contemporary morality play. And exciting to hear Duffy’s verse spoken on stage.
@aj_vasan Loved #ntEveryman @NationalTheatre. The entire production was like a force of nature. Need to buy #carolannduffy’s play text now.
Will I like it?
Not every man and every woman will like this latest offering from the National Theatre and, unless you’ve taken a sneak peek at the production shots before entering the auditorium, there’s a chance you’ll be confronted with something you weren’t quite expecting.
Everyman may be a 15th century play but you wouldn’t know it, with Duffy’s spritely and sweary adaptation, at times poetic, at others witty, Nicky Gillibrand’s slick and shiny costumes and Tal Rosner’s vivid video projections all bringing it bang up to date.
Many will love it for this very reason. It is, after all, an absolute feast for the senses.
Everyman is playing at the National Theatre until 30 August. You can book tickets through the venue’s website.