In 1947 the 15th Century morality play, ‘Everyman’ was performed at Dunfermline Abbey as part of an alternative arts festival aimed to coincide with the Edinburgh International Festival. It is said that one critic commented that Dunfermline was out on the, “fringe of the festival”, a comment that led to the alternative festival becoming known as the Edinburgh Fringe.
With the 2020 Edinburgh Fringe cancelled due to the Covid-19 crisis, Edinburgh artists Denny Hunter and Alison Grieve were inspired to create an online event to fill the artistic void by setting up the #secretfestival, a series of online performances running from 7 to 31 August 2020.
To get the event started, and with the 1947 festival in mind, Denny contacted Fife artist Celie Byrne to see if she would be interested in contributing a film inspired by the 1947 performance of ‘Everyman’ in Dunfermline. Celie texted me late on the 22 July to see if I would be interested:
C – Are you familiar with the morality play ‘Everyman’?
WtB – No.
C – Got an idea if you are willing.
WtB – Fire away.
C – So this Everyman morality play was performed at Dunfermline Abbey, in 1947, as part of the first Edinburgh Fringe.
WtB – Don’t know it. Will look it up.
C – Well my friends Ali Grieve and Denny Hunter have asked me to do something for the #secretfestival. If you are up for it, you could update your Trumped-up Tapestry style recital as Wulfgar and I’d film it on location.
WtB – So is this drawing or speaking?
C – Speaking…
WtB – Is my performance style okay? Only ever did it the once for you guys as a laugh and you all threw fake poo and planes at me.
C – A “one man show” so to speak.
WtB – Happy to write it up Wulfgar style. Could we not get someone else to perform it?
C – Can just be a short play!
WtB – Okay, how long have I got?
C – The festival starts on the 7th August.
WtB – I’d better get reading!
C – Half an hour should be long enough.
WtB – Oh my! Sounds a bit more than I can manage in two weeks.
C – Ten minutes then and if it is five, I’m more than happy with that too.
WtB – That sounds a bit more achievable.
I found the play online and read it that night.
The story basically goes a little like this. Everyman is having a great time, drinking, boozing and fornicating and God isn’t too happy about this, so he sends Death to take him on a pilgrimage to his final judgment. Unsurprisingly, Everyman doesn’t want to go, but, if he does have to go, he doesn’t want to go alone. He asks his family to join him but his cousin backs out because he has a sore toe. He asks his friends and they won’t go. He asks his goods and they won’t go. He asks Strength and Beauty and they won’t go either. The only one who will go with him is Good Deeds.
Having read it and seeing that there was basically no story I spent much of the morning of the next day thinking of how to get out of it. I would text Celie that evening.
Celie and Cupar artist Mark Small arrived that afternoon. I had been thoroughly press-ganged. We sat chatting all afternoon, in the hot sun, and came up with the idea of an “end of the world” guy sitting on a park bench ranting at passers-by. That evening I wrote the idea out. The next morning, I went thought the original again and picked out a few choice lines and added them at appropriate locations. It was written!
I sent the script off and all seemed happy. Having looked at the weather, the 1st August was picked for the shoot. I spent much of the rest of that week cycling around Fife shouting at people as I tried to learn my lines.
Both films have been released as part of the secret festival. The #secretfestival film by Dode Allan and a director’s cut by Celie and Mark.
Written and Performed by: Wulfgar the Bard
Director: Celie Byrne
Film, sound, editing & original music: Mark Small
Film, editing and sound: Dode Allan
Film & runner: Morgan Middleton