All manner of stories have become associated with the famous Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh. The 17th century street now lies beneath the Royal Mile, having been built over during redevelopment and its subterranean location has proved fertile ground for tales of ghosts, walled-up plague victims and sundry other tragedies. So there’s no better setting for a new adaptation of Everyman, the sinister medieval morality play in which an ordinary mortal is brought face to face with Death and forced to account for his life.
This new adaptation is the result of a collaboration between director Leanne Foxwell and performer Brendan Hellier. Originally performed at Mary King’s back in 2010, it is back for one final show before its director moves to Ireland.
In the original, Everyman is visited by Death, who has been sent by God to summon Everyman to Heaven. Afraid he is not ready to meet his maker, Everyman tries to find a companion for the journey. He asks Fellowship, Beauty, Knowledge, Kindred and other characters who have been there for him throughout his life. One-by-one they all desert him, each offering excuses for why they cannot go on this final journey. In the end, Everyman finds that only Good Deeds will accompany him to the pearly gates, the obvious Christian message being that it is doing good in this life which will bring us salvation.
For her adaptation, Foxwell has aimed to keep a strong, simple message like the original, while modernising the predicament which Everyman faces. So in place of medieval torments, our modern Everyman struggles with the loss of his girlfriend and the distractions of consumer culture while attempting to weigh up his life. In so doing, it asks the same question as its medieval counterpart – what have we done with our time on Earth?