This summer York has been fortunate enough to host several versions of the York Mystery cycle. This cycle I have written about before when The Lords of Misrule put them on just be fore Easter (Check it out here!) The biggest production of the plays contained nearly the entire cycle and lasted nearly four hours and were preformed in the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey, in the Museum gardens.
Photos weren’t allowed during the performance, but here are a two from the production website.
The production was very good and covered an impressive amount of material. The Plays in their original format would have started at four in the morning on the day of the feast of Corpus Christi and would have lasted until near midnight. Nearly all the actors were volunteers from York, while the role of Jesus/God and Satan were professional actors.
The plays originally would have been preformed originally on wagons that made their way around the city funded by individual guilds. Earlier in August two of the plays were put on in this manner The Creation and Noah’s Ark.
The wagon for the Creation was quite neat and had a puppeteers to make it day and night, make the mountains grow, and make the animals appear.
The creation is a soliloquy by god explaining how he made the universe and was put on by the builders. So god was given traditional medieval building tools to ‘build’ the universe.
The second preformed was Noah’s ark.
Noah’s ark starts off with Noah’s Wife butchering a fish. The play traditionally was put on by the Fishers’ and the Mariners’ guild, the appropriateness of which I will not belabour.
Noah’s wife is a very funny character because she (sensibly) does not want to get on a boat and leave everything behind. Her sons end up dragging her on the boat against her will, and she is proven wrong to have doubted her husband and the word of God. She then mourns the loss of her family and friends when the flood comes.
They used real birds for both the raven and the dove!
Although when the dove returned I have a sneaking suspicion that it was not the same bird.
The show was very good, and the clouds turned into a rainbow to give it a happy ending.
If this all hadn’t been enough mysteries for one summer we also had The Modern Mysteries in association with the Snickelway Theatre Company & The Flanagan Collective; which were original scripts giving a modern reinterpretations of the mystery plays.
I saw six short stories reinterpreting the Creation, Noah’s Ark, The Temptation, The Story of Mary and the Resurrection. Some were more successful than others at recreating the sense of the the original stories, but all of them were thoughtfully put together.
During the creation there was minimal audience participation and they frighted a child who clung to his sister, reminded me of Storybook Theatre.
Here you have Joe as the new Adam playing his guitar, if he looks familiar it is because he played a brilliant Satan last March.
All of the Mysteries this summer have been extremely entertaining and well done. I feel very luck to have been able to see the mysteries in several different incarnations now as it has made me appreciate them even more. Well done to all my actor friends who have taken part this summer, I’ve been thoroughly entertained.