Definitely-Not-Everyman

Mon 8th – Thu 18th August 2011

reviews

Natalya Din-Kariuki

at 15:51 on 17th Aug 2011

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Z Theatre Company's comic musical adaptation of the medieval morality play Everyman - set in a modern-day office - will amuse and confuse. The cast successfully communicate the social dynamic of an office, complete with its bickering, camaraderie and coffee and cigarette breaks. The allegorical figures of the fifteenth century text are granted twenty-first century realization - Knowledge is the bescpeckled office geek, Beauty the woman primarily defined by her good hair and promiscuity.The script is saturated by witticisms which generate much laughter - the allegorical figure of Death claims to have gone to the Royal Academy of Grim Reaping to learn her skills. Bizarrely, at one point Death and the Angel break the "fourth wall" and sit with the audience as the Angel plays with Death's hair, watching events on stage. It is these small details of this production which enrich it.

The production is weak in a number of ways - in emphasising their existence as mechanical office drones and the layout of their cubicles, the actors march in right-angled straight lines; this was effective at first but eventually seemed unnecessary. As with a number of modern adaptations, the updated morality tale felt strained - Everyman confesses his sins via the Internet. Additionally, the main sub-plot - in which Knowledge and Beauty vie for the position of Chief Financial Officer - feels only loosely connected to the main plot, and is only hastily resolved. It is the nature of morality plays to end abruptly, but this does not translate particularly well into modern theatre: we crave resolution and climaxes, and this adaptation should have taken this into account - the play ends suddenly, with the plots seemingly only superficially resolved. This adaptation could have figured as both a re-writing and re-interpretation of Everyman, but it fails to do so.

This is a strong cast, with each actor displaying moments of brilliance and hilarity - they would do very well with tighter direction and a more developed script.

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David Knowles

at 10:04 on 18th Aug 2011

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Having been impressed by Z-theatre company’s physical theatre piece State of Mind earlier on in the week I was interested to see if the company could repeat the trick with a more conventional play. Definitely-Not-Everyman was frankly, bizarre and did not match its sister play’s ability. The plot made so little sense it would be impossible to describe it without using up all the space left in this review. Even looking at the short synopsis in the fringe guide in front of me is not helping. I thus cannot possible give you a short synopsis but only write that the play included Death, a seemingly all powerful syndicate called the ‘company’ which was populated by characters called names like Beauty, Knowledge and Dimwit and of course the eponymous Everyman. No idea in the show ever appeared to have anything to do with anything else. There was also a keyboard in the corner of the stage which was only used once for reasons best known to the director.

Whatever points or ideas the play was exploring were definitely lost in the maelstrom of oddness which was the script. There were also many actions on stage that even now I am puzzling over; why did the actors walk in right angles? Why did the cast burst into short songs about paperclips? What on earth was the character of Mister Feckle? That the script and the concept of the show were terrible is not say however that the actors performed particularly badly. Indeed, considering what they were working with they deserve a round of applause. The actors were all impressive singers and possessed a confidence on stage that was relaxing and enjoyable. They even managed to get a few laughs from the baffled audience (especially Dimwit). However there were a few too many A-levelesque moments for me to truly enjoy this show; slow cues, a noticeable dip in pace in every scene longer than a minute and problems with elocution for all the actors being some examples.

In summary then, Definitely-Not-Everyman is odd, very odd, and if you would like a mental challenge do go and see it.

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