Anthology at the Everyman

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that Saturday night was my first visit to the Everyman theatre. I hope it’s the first of many, and if the majority of their productions are as good as the Anthology series, I will definitely be back.

Anthology is a group of new short plays by seven different writers inspired by the city and the concurrently running play ‘Tis a Pity She’s a Whore, and brought to life by Slung Low theatre company. When you enter the lobby, you are presented with a choice of objects: a feather, a torch, a milk bottle and a letter among them. You choose, or are given, an object and possibly some headphones with a radio transmitter. Everyone gathers in the theatre and when the show begins, your object is called, or mentioned in turn, and you get up and leave to begin your journey. Each play takes place in a different spot in the city centre.

Knowing nothing about the different stories or where I would go, I took the recommendation of my companion who had seen a few different plays and said her favourite was associated with the feather. She picked a party popper and our other friend who was hurrying back from Manchester was handed a letter for her journey.

Seated in the theatre, those holding party poppers were led away, then the feathers hurried to follow an energetic old woman calling us to follow her and watch ‘Elsie screwing in the bushes!’. We were led away from Hope Street and down towards Rodney Street by JMU’s Roberts Library. In a garden between the libary and a church, the old woman’s story began to unfold, crass voyeuristic threats giving way to a tale of a girl searching for love and the grief that later overwhelmed her. Characters from her past wandered by in the distance, subtly concealing light sources that caught our attention and illuminated their monologues. The setting was perfect, as the old woman rhapsodised about the romance of October we crunched through dry leaves. Though the play could have worked well on stage or even as a radio play (my friend had mentioned earlier it reminded her of Radio 4’s afternoon play format) taking it out of the theatre really enhanced the connection the audience had with the old woman and her story.

We were led back to the theatre by a steward and drinks were provided in the foyer so we could compare notes on our journeys. Both my friends enjoyed their stories, and it was a lovely evening in all. I will definitely pay more attention to theatre programming going on around the city.

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