Reviewed by J.D.R. for The Croydon Advertiser
Hoping for suitable weather last weekend to perform out of doors, Theatre Workshop Coulsdon constructed a medieval pageant cart to lend an authentic background to their presentation of “Everyman.”
Although on the day I saw them they had to play indoors, the idea worked beautifully, the cart presenting us with a tableau of the characters for each scene before the action was enacted on the floor in front of the cart.
Less happy was the notion of a roving troupe of players arriving to present their play and haranguing us, the audience, to come and view. This might have worked had their not been such a marked difference between the subtle and sensitive performance of the play itself and the overloud “ham” acting and mock impatience of the actor manager leading the troupe. The song and dance with which the performance ended was so half-hearted, it would have been better scrapped.
Basically the play itself is too good to need such additions, and Jane Briggs brought out its sense of drama, poetry and tragedy in her production.
This allegorical morality play of the 14th century can well prove a theatrically exciting experience. It concentrates upon its didactic theme without diversion, but the complex humanity of the characters gives it a life and conviction of its own.
Everyman, summoned by Death, approaches in turn the worldly things he has depended upon – Fellowship, Kindred, Goods and personal attributes. All forsake him, and only his good deeds will follow him beyond the Grave.
Terry Richardson made Everyman too much of the noble hero of Shakespearean tragedy rather than the Common Man, but it was a compelling performance. He spoke his lines movingly, with a delicate sense of their poetry.
Other players tended often to speak too fast, presumably in the hope of sounding more natural. Unfortunately this gave the reverse impression, as they sometimes lapsed into a sing-song rhythm.
The individual quality of the acting varied, but the ideas behind each characterisation were always strong enough to carry the scene across. These ranged from the jolly naturalistic group depicting Fellowship to the highly stylised representation of Kinsmen.
They were helped by well chosen, imaginative costumes, and even the less accomplished had sufficient understanding of what they were trying to do to convey some feeling of the character.
Among the more striking figures were the clear-spoken player who made Knowledge a pure and forceful figure, contrasting with the gentle kindness of Rosemary Quin’s Good Deeds; and Fay Smith brought some welcome touches of humour to Discretion.
All in all, the ingenuity of the staging and the strong direction provided a satisfying interpretation of this play, which stands at the root of English theatre.
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