There was a lot of good drama before Shakespeare, says touring playwright Robert Crighton

Robert Crighton, The Summoning of Everyman

Robert Crighton, The Summoning of Everyman - Credit: Archant

A lot of good drama is ignored because it’s judged not to be “as good” as Shakespeare says Robert Crighton. Entertainment writer Wayne Savage finds out more about this and more forthcoming theatre.

Playwright Suzanne Hawkes, Shakespeare in Suffolk

Playwright Suzanne Hawkes, Shakespeare in Suffolk

Following a successful year as artist in residence at the Quay Theatre, Sudbury, during which he produced 10 different plays in 52 weeks, writer, performer and artist Robert Crighton is going on tour with this radical reinterpretation of a medieval morality play - The Summoning of Everyman.

Everyman has been summoned by Death to meet his maker - and he doesn’t want to go.

“It’s an interactive show, there’s a powerful connection between the performer and the audience because they help make the story happen – I talk directly to them, asking them to help me and question how they may live their life,” he says.

“Part of the story of Everyman is looking at the things you’ve done with your life and seeing how much good and bad you have done. One of my favourite elements of the show is I ask the audience to share either good or bad deeds they have actually done, or what they consider to be a good/bad deed. I use these in the show, but I also post them anonymously online afterwards and there are some very inventive responses. I think my favourite bad deed was ‘I was a banker’.”

A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, starring Emilia Petryszyn, Jo Lewis, Beatrice Carpenter (back), Helen

A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, starring Emilia Petryszyn, Jo Lewis, Beatrice Carpenter (back), Helen Leeder (front), Jo Raishbrook and Liam Gregory. - Credit: Archant


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The Summoning of Everyman is part of Crighton’s Before Shakespeare project, an ambitious scheme to record and post online the full catalogue of British drama from the years before the Bard.

“There’s a real sense that anything written before the Bard is seen, not in its own right, but as a stepping stone to his genius, so a lot of good drama is overlooked and ignored because it is judged to be ‘not as good’ as Shakespeare. He tends to eclipse all that came before and a lot that came after.”

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The Summoning of Everyman runs at various locations to April 22. See www.robertcrightonstoryteller.moonfruit.com for more details.

On the subject of said playwright, tickets are now on sale for Suzanne Hawkes’ Shakespeare in Suffolk, set in 1596 when his company The Chamberlain’s Men visited the county.

The play, part of the Royal Shakespeare Company community project Open Stages, is being performed in a variety of venues including Felixstowe’s St Edmund’s Church April 20, Sproughton Tithe Barn April 21-22, Long Melford’s The Bull April 23, Woodbridge’s Seckford Hall Hotel April 24 and Felixstowe’s Orwell Hotel Felixstowe June 8-9.

It will also be part of the New Wolsey Open Season with performances at Ipswich’s St Peter’s by the Waterfront June 10-12 and Ipswich’s Christchurch Mansion June 14 and June 20-21.

Tickets for performances up until June 9 are available from 01394 279613 and Abbeygate Lighting in Felixstowe and from June 10 onwards the New Wolsey Box Office on 01473 295900.

Also coming soon is the Gallery Players’ A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, a masterpiece of black comedy by Peter Nichols, who also wrote Privates on Parade, which focuses on the trials and tribulations of a young married couple.

It broke new ground in the 1960s by having characters talk directly to the audience. Cast members have included Eddie Izzard, Miles Jupp, Clive Owen, Richard Dreyfuss, Peter Bowles, Miriam Margolyes, Prunella Scales, Joan Hickson, Jim Dale, Alan Bates and Albert Finney.

“Working on A Day in the Death of Joe Egg has been an incredible experience. It’s a play with tears of laughter as well as tears of sadness. It’s a real comic drama - it has moments of stand-up comedy, moments of farce and moments that will break your heart,” says director Helen Clarke.

“Perhaps this is what gives is such a contemporary feel - it’s hard to believe it was written in 1967; it seems so relevant to today. It explores how a parent’s love can endure - even thrive - in extraordinary circumstances.”

It runs April 2-11 at Ipswich’s Sir John Mills Theatre. Tickets are on sale now.

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