Everyman, Olivier Theatre, National Theatre, Thursday 23rd July 2015 (matinee)

July 26, 2015

Everyman certainly couldn’t be deemed dull. It is a visual spectacle, with video screens the height of the massive Olivier stage, some entry from Everyman himself and highly choreographed ensemble pieces. It also has a cast full of personality and Chiwetel Ejiofor giving so much that he’s bathed in sweat after a few minutes.

For me though, while there is a lot to enjoy about the play, overall it didn’t work for me. Basically it is a play about how we shouldn’t be so materialistic and self-centered, and yet I found it itself to be focussed on the material and, ultimately, kind of shallow.  Dare I say it, a tad style over substance…

I don’t know whether it is just that this is an old play which I am not sure totally translates to this day and age on the most important level – the level of what it is actually about. We live in an age where many of us are not religious, so to have a play which suggests there is benefit in following God’s ideals… does it really work? I just didn’t feel it.  Yes, it is true, we are all too self centred, but what did this play really say about that?  I mean, if it said something to you if you’ve seen it, I’d love to hear as I’d like to like it more.

Surely every man (y’see what I did there!) will relate to qualities the self-centered, materialistic Everyman possesses. I know I did. After all, I just spent several days watching plays. How out-for-myself is that. But on the same note, maybe even the creation of a play, acting in it and putting on an expensive production like this is the opposite of altruism…  As I see it though, death comes to us all whether we were awful or wondrous in life… and also, while I am sure everyone watching will relate to and share negative aspects of Everyman, I would hope most people are not all one thing and that most people are actually a combination of good and bad.  I don’t know.  Real life is not so simple.

There are a lot of quirky characters in the play and they are a great deal of fun. In particular God and Death are just fabulously entertaining. I could have watched the guy playing Death for two hours alone: he seems like he’s having so much fun. And some of the set pieces with the whole ensemble look fabulous. But when you dig beneath all the show and the external, what is the play really saying? It didn’t make me feel much. It didn’t alter how I thought… I just found it a little bit hollow…  It didn’t give me enough to think about.

Oh yeah, at one point one of the ensemble donned a wig and then reminded me so much of Richard Ayoade.  Then a big turbine-fan thing created a tsunami and I didn’t see what happened but suddenly there was Richard-Ayoade-alike in his underpants.  And I was thinking “What is going on?!”  Ahem… anyway…  Surely I was not the only person who thought this watching?  Was I the only person???


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