There’s a great treat in store for theatrelovers, the late-fifteenth century Morality play, “Everyman”, Live from London’s National Theatre; one of the oldest plays in English drama, it’s rarely performed nowadays. So, given the excellent standards we have come to expect from The ‘National’, in the past few years at the SGC, and in my own case, over many decades now, it’s a rare opportunity for those who love the theatre to see one of the great seminal plays in our theatre.
In the NT production, Everyman is played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who first came to international prominence in the marvellous 2013 film, “12 Years a Slave”. Ejiofor, who played the slave, Solomon Northrop, was nominated for an Oscar and won a Bafta award for his role in that film; I thought it a superb film and Ejiofor was simply magnificent as the slave in a real-life story of Northrop, a freeman, who was sold in Washington D.C. and spent 12 years in slavery in Louisiana. I look forward eagerly to seeing Ejiofor in the role of Everyman in this live screening.
“Everyman”, a pre-Reformation drama (written c. 1500), is of the genre Morality Play, a dramatic allegory. The Morality Play is a dramatisation of the battle between good and evil in the human soul, of man’s search for salvation and the temptations to which he is subject on his journey through life. “Everyman”, (“The Summoning of Everyman”, it its full title), is written in Middle English. Morality plays such as “Everyman” have been a great influence on our theatre – Marlowe’s “Dr Faustus”, to cite but one.
“Everyman” is an allegorical tale in which the hero is summoned by Death. A messenger is sent to tell him that God is about to sit in judgement on his soul. When Everyman tries to get people and things from his life on earth to accompany him and plead his case before God, his Good Deeds alone go with him on that road.
“Everyman” is a play that asks probing questions of all of us about what are the really important things in our lives. Coming from the ‘National’, with a great leading actor and a great supporting cast, I believe it’s not to be missed.