Some of you may be familiar with the medieval morality play, Everyman – now a modern interpretation is being staged by Budapest's own English-language theatre troupe, Artificial Moon. Everybody debuts on 17 November at the Turbina Cultural Centre, and also represents the European premiere of this contemporary American adaptation by the award-winning Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. First performed Off-Broadway in 2017, it was soon nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. We talk death, God and Godot with actor and founder of Artificial Moon, Budapest resident Roderick (Rod) Hill.

The idea of Artificial Moon, ‘Műhold Theatre’, was dreamt up by English-Hungarian actor, Rod Hill who, after moving here from London, soon realised that more English-language theatre should be going on in Budapest.

English-language theatre in Budapest

When I came here, I did several acting jobs but felt there was a need for regular, quality English-language theatre in Budapest – so I decided to do something about it.”

And it worked. Since then, Artificial Moon successfully produced their first play, The Bald Soprano and now Everybody is due for its European premiere on 17 November.

Rod, who acts and produces, says that although the plot is based on a medieval morality play, the message of it has never been more relevant today. What do you take with you to your death bed? is the question it poses in thought-provoking fashion, making the audience ponder upon the value of life.

But don't be intimidated by the serious subject matter. This is no rigid drama of life and death. In fact, it's all presented in the form of a contemporary black comedy. Without giving too much away, the plot centres around the main character, Everybody, who is travelling through life with the aim of finding the real meaning of it.

As he does so, questions arise such as how much friendship, family and wealth matter – and what your life amounts to… Unlike the original medieval play, this American adaptation has a broader perspective, the answer being not simply the idea of God in the religious sense but its modern interpretation.

Black comedy

"It’s a black comedy, so the goal is to laugh at death, to be merry when fears are surrounding you everywhere."

Rod also reveals a surprising feature of the show, which is that the fate of Everybody will be decided by lottery involving the audience. So, logically, this means that every time the play is staged, it will be slightly different as Everybody’s character will be played by another actor. All in all, a real treat for adventurous professionals.

The company plan to make this play a regular part of their repertoire in order to benefit from this extraordinary characteristic: “After our first show, The Bald Soprano, the troupe agreed upon this piece by Brandon-Jenkins, as it’s extremely fitting right now, when the whole world has stopped and people spent a lot of time at home in self-reflection. That’s why we didn’t go for any of the classics,” says Rod.

Rod also comments on his rather Shakespearean approach to theatre that it should be fun, something which should affect and involve everyone while not being not too heavy

Artificial Moon operates with the same principle. Rod’s troupe work with professional actors, both Hungarians and expats, who are also friends. There's a cheerful mood to rehearsals despite the subject matter.

Shakespearean approach

I love rehearsals. All my worries go away and I feel relaxed working with this group of actors together on this play.”

After regular showings of Everybody, Artificial Moon stage a third comedy in January, the two-man show Waiting for Waiting for Godot, in which understudies prepare to take to the stage but somehow never make their way there. At the same time, The Bald Soprano will also be back for the upcoming season. But first, do yourself a favour and settle down for some home truths combined with a little bingo on 17 November.

Performance details

Everybody by Artificial Moon
Turbina Cultural Centre
1082 Budapest, Vajdahunyad utca 4
17 November, 8pm-9.30pm
Show details here 
Advance tickets: 4,000 forints available here