Chiwetel Ejiofor returns to the National Theatre, after 15 years, with a spectacular aerial descent onto the Olivier stage. This casting coup sets the tone for Rufus Norris’ first show as the National’s new boss: gritty, garish, Everyman aims for a broad audience.
Having debuted at the Olivier with Market Boy back in 2006, Norris knows how to use this space: the show is energetic and extravagant at every turn. It’s on trend, too, with Tal Rosner’s arty video design and William Lyons’ fusion score of club anthems and medieval instruments.
High-profile collaborations boost credibility, namely Javier De Frutos’ macabre choreography and Carol Ann Duffy’s new text, which is crammed with cursing and recasts Everyman as a City slicker for our secular times.
Strong acting from Kate Duchêne, as a downbeat God, and Dermot Crowley, as an enthusiastic Death, head up a hard-working ensemble, while Sharon D Clarke bolsters the singing formidably as Everyman’s mother.
The final guarantor of the show’s success is, of course, Ejiofor, whose performance embodies the immediacy that’s Norris’ hallmark style. The attempt to reinvigorate a medieval morality play, Britain’s earliest theatrical form, inevitably suggests Norris’ wish to start afresh, promising exciting times to come.
Until 30 August 2015
Photo by Richard Hubert Smith