Review by Rosheen Fitzgerald
Carol Ann Duffy’s Everyman is a challenging piece to bring to the stage for any company, let alone a provincial youth theatre group. An age old authorless morality play designed to strike the fear of god into the great unwashed, it is an Ozymandian tale of hubris, the fall, and the inevitability of death. In the hands of Duffy, who has only just relinquished the crown of British poet laureate she wore for a decade; our antihero, Everyman, is a libatious and licentious slick suited City boy, regurgitating from his excess into God’s waiting mop bucket at his debaucherous fortieth birthday celebrations. He is taken to task by a trio of razor tongued beldams in the form of God — a northern cleaning lady with housecoat and mop; Knowledge — a malodorous cockney bag woman; and (a personal favourite for obvious reasons), Death — a sharp talking, no-shit taking Irish barmaid with a corkscrew as her scythe. Faced with his demise and challenged to account for his earthly existence, he is forced to stare his sins in the face, moving through the stages of grief to humility and acceptance.
Unsurprisingly for Britain’s first openly queer poet laureate, Duffy’s adaptation challenges traditional gender and class roles, flipping the received power dynamic in a way that is wholly authentic to the spirit of mummery. The medieval festivals where the source material would have originally been performed were celebrations at which servants were served, life flipped upside down and temporary passes issued for saying and doing the things you’re not supposed to.
The cast of young HaBYT performers take the work and run with it, displaying a boldness that is heartening in an age where anxiety infects our youth like a virus. It’s a confidence that comes with practice and polish. The lilting lyrical lines are word perfect, landed with precision. The blocking and choreography has co-director, Champa Maciel’s fingermarks all over it. Dynamic devises of movement and costume pick up themes that flow through the piece like water, expertly executed. Tom Steinmann stands out in the eponymous role by virtue of the range of passion and despair he brings to the stage, but really we could be boasting in our dotage about the time we saw any one of this cast of talented performers before they were rich and famous. Make no mistake, this is theatre by young people, not youth theatre. Any stench of am-dram is rinsed clean in a piece that stands tall beside any of the festival offerings. Gripping and intimate, by turns tragic and hilarious, this show deserves to sell out all of its five night run in a theatre twice its size. The auditorium is small. Don’t miss out.
Images by @how_ridiculous_costumes