‘Everyman’ at the National (Olivier)Theatre
9th May, 2015
‘Welcome to hell, SE’
Wow! This is Rufus Norris’s first production as artistic director of the National Theatre and he is starting inventive in every sense from the drug-fuelled raves to a seductive Donna Summer soundtrack. The production design pulses with energy, even in the moments of quiet reflection. Much of the original’s theological substance has been stripped away. Poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy’s writing is characteristically edgy with lines such as ‘Religion is a man-made thing. It too will pass.’ At times, however, the predictable rhyming and the lame humour from contemporary references to loyalty cards and Beckham and even Cliff’s colostomy bag seem disappointingly puerile.
The play opens with a weary-looking cleaner (Kate Duchêne) mopping the stage. Contrary to expectation, she is God. None of this is particularly apparent from an audacious, wordless opening scene, in which Everyman, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, a big star who’s never forgotten the stage, descends on a wire from the Olivier’s ceiling. He then runs vertically, in slow motion, down through the pit in the middle of the stage, before re-emerging into the hedonistic raunchy excesses of his 40th birthday party.