Waggons encircle city streets as York Mystery Plays roll in for second Sunday

Wren Crawford as Jesus in a tableaux of the Guild Of Butchers’ The Crucifixion Of Christ in Shambles Market on Wednesday night. Picture: Lewis Outing

TODAY concludes the week of York Mystery Plays 2022 with a second Sunday of street plays on a roll around York’s city-centre from 11am onwards.

Presented by the Guilds of York and the York Festival Trust, eight plays have been selected by director Tom Straszewski from the 48 that comprise the mediaeval York Cycle of Mystery Plays.

In keeping with tradition, the plays will be wheeled around the bustling streets on waggons, processing from station to station at College Green (free) to St Sampson’s Square (free), St Helen’s Square (free) and King’s Manor (ticketed).

Those plays will be: York Guild of Building’s Creation To The Fifth Day, directed by Janice Newton, of Thinkon Theatre; the Gild of Freemen’s The Fall Of Adam And Eve, featuring the Vale of York Academy, directed by Bex Nicholson; the Company of Cordwainers and York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust’s The Building Of The Ark and The Flood, directed by Paul Toy; St Luke’s Church, Burton Stone Lane, in Herod And The Three Kings, directed by Lynn Comer and Mike Tyler.

The work of the devil: Mick Liversidge’s Lucifer as the unholy host at Wednesday’s performance of The Mysteries In The Market. Picture: Lewis Outing

The Company of Merchant Taylors and Lords Of Misrule’s The Last Supper, directed by Emily Hanson; the Guild of Butchers and Riding Lights Acting Up’s The Crucifixion and Death Of Christ, directed by Kelvin Goodspeed and Jared More; the Guild of Media Arts and Guild of Scriveners’ The Appearance Of Jesus To Mary Magdalene, directed by Jessica Murray, and the Company of Merchant Adventurers’ The Last Judgement, brought forth by Ravens Morris and Paint The Mouse Productions, directed by Alan Heaven, no less.

On Wednesday and Thursday, to mark Midsummer, five plays a night were performed under the umbrella of The Mysteries In The Market, as flat-capped Mick Liversidge sprouted horns to play master of ceremonies Lucifer in a series of interludes edited and directed by Straszewski.

On the first night, Fall Of Adam and Eve, The Flood, The Last Supper, The Crucifixion and The Last Judgement were staged; on the second, Creation To The Fifth Day, The Flood,The Last Supper, The Crucifixion and The Last Judgement.

Tickets for today’s performances at King’s Manor are on sale at yorkmysteryplays.co.uk.

Meet Noah as York Mystery Plays roll out waggons for return to city-centre streets

When it rains, it pours: Maurice Crichton’s Noah looks to the sky in rehearsal for York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust’s production of The Building Of The Ark and The Flood. Picture: John Saunders

EIGHT plays from the York Cycle of Mystery Plays will be wheeled around York city centre on waggons by the Guilds of York and York Festival Trust on Saturday and June 26.

Under the direction of Tom Straszewski, from 11am each weekend, the Plays will process from College Green (free admission) to St Sampson’s Square (free), St Helen’s Square (free) and King’s Manor (ticketed).

In addition, five of the plays will be staged in ticketed Midsummer midweek performances in Shambles Market on Wednesday and Thursday at 7.30pm.

Taking part in all of the performances will be a familiar bearded face on the York stage, Maurice Crichton, playing Noah in Paul Toy’s staging of The Building Of The Ark and The Flood for the Company of Cordwainers and York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust.

Maurice is steeped in Mystery history. “I did the Settlement Players’ waggon play in 2010, as Pontius Pilate; Riding Lights and York Theatre Royal’s Two Planks And A Passion in 2011; Pilate in the 2012 Mystery Plays in the Museum Gardens; Herod in York Minster in 2016, and Soldier 1 in The Crucifixion for the Company of Butchers and St Chad’s Church in 2018,” he says.

“But I’ve never done a Supporters Trust play, so that’s a first, and I’ve never done Noah before. It’s a delightful part, and we’ve tried to go for the humour, although there’s not so much humour in ‘The Ark’, but as soon as Paul [Toy] mashed the two plays together, that helped with the tone.”

Director Paul Toy, centre, bearded, in the thick of a rehearsal for The Building Of The Ark and The Flood

What draws Maurice back to the York Mystery Plays time after time? “First of all, it connects me to the city where I live,” he says. “It’s the one piece of world theatre that the city is really connected to, so I enjoy that aspect, and the more I’ve done the plays, the more I’ve looked into the history.

“It’s similar to Shakespeare, where you have the script but you have no idea how it was done when it was first performed. You’re like a detective, and the more you look into the plays, the more the options open up as you de-code the text, and that’s exciting.

“That’s what differentiates the Mystery Plays from plays of our time, where the writer is still around to help you to prepare. For a role like Noah, you have to think, how do I ‘see’ this line; what actions will go with that? It’s a case of, the more you take these words into your head, the more you think about what cadence is needed, what freedom have I got; what’s the rhythm; what’s the meaning?”

Maurice makes a further comparison with Shakespeare’s texts. “Sometimes you feel the audience isn’t going to follow this because the language is dated,” he says. “I’ve had discussions with Paul where I’ve said, I think the original version works better for its musicality, rather than the new adaptation, but elsewhere I’ve said, can I modernise a line, so it cuts both ways.”

Performing on bustling city-centre streets makes particular demands on actors. “The first thing to say is the plays are not being done where they should be, in the tight streets, rather than the open squares, but that’s for practical reasons,” points out Maurice.

“Now, there’s no reverb off the walls to help you, much as College Green is a beautiful setting, but the plays used to be done in streets like Stonegate, as old pictures show.

“I remember in 2010 I was hoarse by the end of the day after the four performances,” says Maurice Crichton. “I needed someone to say ‘that’s loud enough’!”

“You also have to imagine how the streets of York used to be; they’ve all become wider, apart from Shambles, to deal with traffic.

“The danger is that if you’re worried about your audibility, you’re going to punish your vocal cords because you’re trying to be too loud. I remember in 2010 I was hoarse by the end of the day after the four performances. I needed someone to say ‘that’s loud enough’.”

Maurice continues: “Having not been to drama school, I didn’t know what to do in that situation, but what I’ve learned is you really need to keep your face pointed forwards towards the audience at all times when you have something to say, using your arms for gestures.

“It doesn’t help to look at your partner on stage. But when they’re talking, you do look at them; you’re fully responsive in your expressions, turning to face them to show very positively you’re engaging with them through your eyes.

“It’s a different discipline to acting on a stage indoors, because you wouldn’t perform that way in natural speech. Indoors, these days you’re mainly trying to achieve naturalism, but performing on the streets requires the opposite of the norm. Outdoors, it looks like you’re in a Victorian melodrama.”

Given the “noises off” that confront street theatre, with shoppers, stags and hens and open-air cafe tables to negotiate, Maurice says: “The reality is, you’ll be able to count on one hand the number of actors you can hear clearly 90 per cent of the time.

“In St Helen’s Square, for example, there’s a massive amount of distractions, as people move from one shopping street to another, and the challenge is to be so focused and confident in your lines that you can keep going, stopping to do a funny aside, if necessary, but always keeping your face head on to the crowd, of course!”

If the cap fits: Mick Liversidge will play Satan in the Mysteries In The Market on Wednesday and Thursday

Meanwhile, Easingwold actor Mick Liversidge will play Satan in the midsummer Mysteries In The Market performances in Shambles Market on Wednesday and Thursday evening, following in the crepuscular footsteps of James Swanton’s Lucifer in The Mysteries After Dark in September 2018.

“As a huge fan of outdoor theatre, I was absolutely delighted to be offered this role,” says Mick, who will act as narrator, steering the 100-strong audience and linking each of the five plays to be presented.

“I’ve performed in many local plays both in York and around Yorkshire, so it’s a pleasure to be involved in such a great community event. I’m looking forward to guiding the audience and seeing their reactions as the plays unfold.”

Mick has appeared in everything from York productions of Wind In The Willows, Calendar Girls The Musical and A Christmas Carol to Shakespeare, short films, Coronation Street, Channels 4’s It’s A Sin, The Queen And I on Netflix, the 2019 film version of Downton Abbey and this year’s Bengali-language adventure thriller Swastik Sanket.

Full details of the 2022 York Mystery Plays can be found at yorkmysteryplays.co.uk, including bookings for the ticketed performances at King’s Manor and Shambles Market.

Copyright of The Press, York

The Crucifixion scene in The Mysteries After Dark at Shambles Market in September 2018

What will the eight plays be?

* Creation To The Fifth Day, York Guild of Building, directed by Janice Newton

* The Fall Of Man, Gild of Freemen and Vale of York Academy, directed by Bex Nicholson

* The Building Of The Ark and The Flood, Company of Cordwainers and York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust, directed by Paul Toy

* The Three Kings and Herod, St Luke’s Church, directed by Mike Tyler

* The Last Supper, Company of Merchant Taylors and Lords of Misrule, directed by Dr Emily Hansen

* The Crucifixion and Death Of Christ, Company of Butchers and Riding Lights Acting Up!, directed by Kelvin Goodspeed and Jared More

* The Appearance Of Jesus To Mary Magdalene, Guild of Media Arts and Guild of Scriveners, directed by Jess Murray

* The Last Judgement, Company of Merchant Adventurers, directed by Alan and Diane Heaven

2022 York Mystery Plays director Tom Straszewski, pictured with Jess Murray, director of The Appearance Of Jesus To Mary Magdalene for the Guild of Media Arts and Guild of Scriveners

2022 York Mystery Plays director Tom Straszewski has confirmed the plays for Mysteries In The Market:

June 22, 7.30pm: Fall Of Adam and Eve; The Flood; The Last Supper; The Crucifixion and The Last Judgement.

June 23, 7.30pm: Creation To The Fifth Day; The Flood; The Last Supper; The Crucifixion and The Last Judgement.

More Things To Do in York and beyond, as York welcomes York to York for the weekend. List No. 67, from The Press

Enjoy free admission to York Art Gallery’s Young Gainsborough: Rediscovered Landscape Drawings exhibition as part of York Residents’ Festival. Booking required. Picture: Charlotte Graham

YORK attracts 8.4 million visitors, but this weekend you are invited to be a tourist in your own city, as Charles Hutchinson highlights.

Festival of the week: York Residents’ Festival, today and tomorrow

MORE than 70 events, attractions and offers make up this weekend’s York Residents’ Festival, with the offers continuing all week.

Organised by Make It York, this annual festival invites all York residents with a valid YorkCard to “explore the city and be a tourist for the weekend”, one card per person. 

Pre-booking is required for some highlights of a festival that takes in museums, theatres, galleries, churches, hidden gems, historic buildings, food and drink and shops.  For more details, visit: visityork.org/residents-festival.

Tall storey in Tall Stories’ The Smeds And The Smoos at York Theatre Royal this weekend

Children’s show of the week: The Smeds And The Smoos, York Theatre Royal, today, 2.30pm and 4.30pm; tomorrow, 10.30am and 1.30pm

SOAR into space with Tall Stories’ exciting new stage adaptation of writer Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler’s joyful tale of star-crossed aliens.

On a far-off planet, Smeds and Smoos cannot be friends. Nevertheless, when a young Smed and Smoo fall in love, they promptly zoom off into space together.

How will their families get them back? Find out in an interplanetary adventure for everyone aged three upwards, full of music and laughter, from the company that delivered The Gruffalo and Room On The Broom on stage. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Bedtime story: Ian Ashpitel and Jonty Stephens as Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise in Eric & Ern

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be; it’s better in: Eric & Ern, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday and Wednesday, 7.30pm

IAN Ashpitel and Jonty Stephens bring you sunshine in their uncanny portrayal of comedy duo Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise in a show that has been touring for more than five years.

Combining renditions of famous comedy sketches with contemporary references, Eric & Ern contains some of the first new writing in the Morecambe & Wise  style in more than in 30 years. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Abstract collage, by Peter Schoenecker, at Pocklington Arts Centre

Exhibition of the week outside York: Peter Schoenecker, A New Way Of Looking, Pocklington Arts Centre, until February 19

PETER Schoenecker’s mixed-media artworks open Pocklington Arts Centre’s 2022 season of exhibitions in the studio.

On show are watercolours, acrylics and lino prints by the Pocklington artist, a former graphic designer, who is inspired by the landscape and seascape textures and lighting in and around his Yorkshire home.

“My aim is usually to create a mood or atmosphere using colour or black and white,” he says. “Switching between media keeps me interested and innovative, hopefully bringing a freshness to the work.”

Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant: From Liverpool to Leeds on Wednesday

Gig of the week outside York: Echo & The Bunnymen, Leeds O2 Academy, Wednesday, doors, 7pm

AHEAD of the February 18 vinyl reissue of their 1985 compilation Songs To Learn & Sing, Liverpool legends Echo & The Bunnymen play plenty of those songs and more besides in Leeds (and at Sheffield City Hall the night before).

Available for the first time since that initial release, the “Best Of” cherry picks from their first four albums with the single Bring On The Dancing Horses as the icing on top. On tour, vocalist Ian McCulloch and guitarist Will Sergeant will be leading a band now in their 44th year, still too cool to be called a heritage act. Box office: gigsandtours.com/tour/echo-and-the-bunnymen.

Granny (Isabel Ford) and Ben (Justin Davies) in the Crown Jewels-stealing scene in Birmingham Stage Company’s Gangsta Granny

Family show of the week: Birmingham Stage Company in Gangsta Granny, Grand Opera House, York, February 3 to 5, 2.30pm and 7pm; February 6, 11am and 3pm

IN David Walliams’s tale, Friday night means only one thing for 11-year-old Ben: staying with Granny, where he must put up with cabbage soup, cabbage pie and cabbage cake.

Ben knows one thing for sure – it will be so, so boring – but what Ben doesn’t know is that Granny has a secret. Soon Friday nights will be more exciting than he could ever imagine, as he embarks on the adventure of a lifetime with his very own Gangsta Granny, in Neal Foster’s touring production, back in York next week for the first time since 2016. Suitable for age five upwards. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York.

Two out of Seven: Shed Seven’s Rick Witter and Paul Banks to perform as a duo in Scarborough

Compact Sheds: Rick Witter and Paul Banks, Scarborough Spa Theatre, April 17, 7.30pm

SHED Seven shed three when frontman Rick Witter and lead guitarist Paul Banks “go where no Shed has gone before” to play Scarborough over the Easter weekend.

Mr H Presents promoter Tim Hornsby says: “Expect a special night of classic Shed Seven material and a few surprises”.

“You already know this whites-of-their-eyes show is going to sell out, so don’t get bothered with the regular unholy last-minute scramble for tickets and purchase early for a holler-along to some of the best anthems ever,” he advises. Box office: scarboroughspa.co.uk.

James Swanton as Lucifer with cast members of The Last Judgement when plays from the 2018 York Mystery Plays were staged in the Shambles Market. Picture: Lewis Outing

Looking ahead to the summer: 2022 York Mystery Plays, York city centre, June 19 and 26

HERE come the wagons, rolling through York streets on two June weekends, as the Guilds of York maintain their four-yearly cycle of York Mystery Plays set in motion in 1998.

As in 2018, Tom Straszewski is the artistic director for a community production involving nearly 600 people creating hours of drama, performed for free, on eight wagons at four locations, including St Sampson’s Square, St Helen’s Square and King’s Manor.

“The plays will cover the creation of the world, floods, last meals together and resurrections,” says Strasz. “We’re still seeking directors, performance groups and actors, who should email director@yorkmysteryplays.co.uk to apply.”

Guilds of York to roll out York Mystery Plays wagons on city streets on June 19 and 26

2022 York Mystery Plays artistic director Tom Straszewski

HERE come the wagons, rolling through York’s streets on June 19 and 26 for the 2022 York Mystery Plays.

Once more, the driving force behind the community production will be the Guilds of York, maintaining the four-yearly wagon-play cycle they set in motion in 1998 and last implemented in 2018.

Under the artistic direction of Tom Straszewski, the Mystery Plays will be presented on decorated pageant wagons, in keeping with the medieval custom. Pushed by York residents, these will move through the streets to the accompaniment of musicians.

Straszewski’s production will involve nearly 600 people in all, who will create hours of drama, performed for free. Eight wagons will process through the city centre to stage their chosen plays at four locations, including St Sampson’s Square, St Helen’s Square and King’s Manor.

Roger Lee, chairman of York Festival Trust, says: “With arts and culture being amongst the last areas of our lives allowed to return post-Covid, we are delighted to bring York Mystery Plays back to the city this summer and support the rebirth of live performing arts.

James Swanton as Lucifer with cast members of The Last Judgement when plays from the 2018 York Mystery Plays were staged in the Shambles Market. Picture: Lewis Outing

“Our past productions have met with great popular, academic and critical acclaim, and we hope to build on this success with our 2022 production. In their medieval heyday, the Mystery Plays and the Guilds were inextricably linked, and it is this heritage we are reclaiming with these regular four-yearly productions.

Artistic director Tom Straszewski will work with various partners across York to make the Mystery Plays, their story, themes and message accessible to as many people as possible. “After two years of uncertainty for the arts, this is an opportunity for York’s communities to come together to celebrate our city’s heritage through drama, spectacle and pageantry,” he says.

“This will be a huge boost for people’s well-being and a festival to attract York residents and visitors alike to the city on these two Sundays.”

In the era of pandemic lockdowns and climate change, the theme for 2022’s selection of eight plays will be sustainability and transformation. “The plays will cover the creation of the world, floods, last meals together and resurrections. We are still seeking directors, performance groups and actors to take on these plays, including the iconic Crucifixion with the Butchers’ Gild,” says Tom, who was the artistic director and pageant master for the 2018 Mystery Plays too.

“There are still opportunities to be involved and anyone interested should email director@yorkmysteryplays.co.uk.”

REVIEW: A Resurrection For York, York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust, 3/7/2021

Emily Hansen’s Pilgrim as Mary Magdalene in A Resurrection For York. Picture: John Saunders

A Resurrection For York, Residents Garden, Minster Library, Dean’s Park, York

HAPPENSTANCE may have led to this pandemic-delayed production being staged at the Residents Garden in Dean’s Park, but A Resurrection For York made a compelling case for the York Mystery Plays to take up residence there.

The gardens are self-contained, behind iron railings that facilitate curious passers-by taking a look; the acoustics are clear, without echo; the Minster bells chime on the quarter hour to both complement and compliment the atmosphere, and the setting is perfect for open-air theatre: spacious, green and on a hillock that cries out to be used for moments of high drama or an important monologue.

As Saturday morning’s audience gathered under grey clouds, Philip Parr’s cast members for this York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust, York Festival Trust and York Minster tripartite production were already in situ for the first of six performances in two days.

The premise was that they were playing pilgrims, two canvas tents pitched at the back, everyone in walking boots, with roll-up sleeping mats, blankets, rucksacks and picnics in Enid Blyton retro brown paper bags.

Intentionally, community cast and community audience became indistinguishable: we were all in this together, albeit socially distanced; pilgrims all, gathered to tell each other stories, led by Nick Jones and Sally Maybridge’s exhorting narrators.

From this canvas would emerge Parr’s Pilgrims, dotted around the grass, some staying in that guise, others taking on specific roles, both alongside and on the two static wagons rolled out for significant scenes, one to set the cross in place.

The cross always will be the most potent symbol of the York Mystery Plays, and here it was especially central to Parr and 2018 York Mystery Plays director Tom Straszewski’s hour-long story, adapted from the Mystery Plays cycle of the crucifixion and the events that followed.

The most powerful image was in fact an absence, the dying Christ being represented instead by a shroud, wrapped around the cross pulled high by the grafting soldiers, one declaring himself too tired to finish the task in one of those brief interjections of humour that the Mystery Plays – the street theatre of its time – suddenly throw up.

The shroud became the motif woven through Parr’s production, daubed in blood, later folded up across a wagon to signify Christ’s body placed in the tomb by Joseph of Arimathea (Tony Froud), and then being worn by a tall, dark-haired figure, again emerging from the crowd.

In keeping with medieval tradition, the pilgrim playing Christ was not credited, although a reference to “plus David Denbigh” in the list supplied to CharlesHutchPress may indicate it was him.

Judith Ireland’s Mary, Mother of Jesus, and Emily Hansen’s Mary Magdalene stood out in a cast strong on diction and clear delivery. Music played its part too, largely acappella, choral or folk, with minimal accompaniment, and used sparingly but sung lustily or movingly.

What comes next? 2022 is very likely to see the York Mystery Plays being staged on wagons in June, maybe at the Residents Garden. Watch this space.

Wagons wheeled in for A Resurrection For York setting of Mystery Plays at Dean’s Park

Preparations are gaining momentum for A Resurrection For York at Dean’s Park on July 3 and 4. Picture: John Saunders

A WEEK to go for A Resurrection For York and everything is dropping into place, the cross and all, at the Residents Garden, Minster Library, Dean’s Park, York.

Initial plans for the open-air play had to be put on hold under pandemic restrictions, but partners York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust, York Festival Trust and York Minster then settled on new performance dates of July 3 and 4.

Directed by Philip Parr, artistic director of Parrabbola, the show’s format will be retained: one hour long, performed outdoors, on two static wagons, and the staging will be compliant with Covid safety requirements for audience social distancing for each day’s 11am, 2pm and 4pm performances.

Since his appointment in March, Parr has worked on the new script with Tom Straszewski, director of the York Mystery Plays’ wagon production in 2018, and auditioned a community cast, subsequently conducting rehearsals on Zoom.

Previously, Parr directed York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust’s production of A Nativity For York at the Spurriergate Centre, York, in December 2019.

Tickets are selling well – some performances have sold out already – and a civic party will attend the opening Saturday performance, followed by the Dean of York, the Right Reverend Dr Jonathan Frost, at a Sunday show.

The arrival of the wagons, loaned by the Guilds of Butchers and Merchant Taylors, was an uplifting moment, as the team of Dave Clapham, Mark Morton and Adam Robinson manoeuvred the trailer and wagons through the Dean’s Park gates, despite the tight squeeze.

Dave Clapham, Mark Morton and Adam Robinson delivering the wagons, or waggons as the York Mystery Plays historians are wont to call them. Picture: John Saunders

On those wagons, the cast will be performing a script by Straszewski and Parr, created from the York Mystery Plays cycle of the crucifixion and the events that followed.

Michael Maybridge, who will play Pilgrim 2, says: “What this script brings to mind is the experience of the very earliest Christians. We might think of our play in terms of the medieval citizens of York, reminding themselves of the narrative of their faith by telling each other stories.

“Many of those Christians found themselves travelling, just like the pilgrims in our play. They carried on telling their stories, and it seems uncontroversial to say that, in doing so, they changed the world.”

Jodie Fletcher, taking the role of Mary Cleophas, says: “The Mystery Plays are a unique part of history, and for me the magic comes from the beautiful and poetic language. It has been wonderful to be creating theatre once more and I hope audiences will find the experience revitalising.”

On July 3, the 2pm performance will be livestreamed on YouTube at youtube.com/watch?v=UXChGFomf5M and on Facebook at facebook.com/events/584796139152052/.


In addition, the Saturday performances will be filmed as a “record to view later”. “Watch this space. We’ll let you know when it’s available. What’s more, it’s free,” says the latest York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust newsletter.

“Attending a Saturday performance? There may be incidental filming of audience members, so if you do not wish to feature, please let one of the front-of-house stewards know. You can tell them by their face mask and name badge,” it adds.

Wagon wheelers: Dave Clapham, Mark Morton and Adam Robinson

Please note, as seating will not be provided for audiences, make sure to bring a rug or folding chair. Gates will be open to the garden from 10.30am.

Tickets for A Resurrection For York are on sale at ticketsource.co.uk/whats-on/york/residents-garden-deans-park/a-resurrection-for-york/

Who will be in the cast for A Resurrection For York?

Pilgrim 1, Wilma Edwards; Pilgrim 2, Michael Maybridge; Pilgrim 3, Victoria Rooke; Pilgrim 4, Mary Callan; Pilgrim 5, Nick Jones (Narrator); Pilgrim 6, Sally Maybridge (Narrator, Peter); Pilgrim 7, Chris Pomfrett (John); no Pilgrim 8.

Pilgrim 9, Julie Speedie; Pilgrim 10, Judith Ireland (Mary, Mother of Christ); Pilgrim 11, Jodie Fletcher (Mary Cleophas); Pilgrim 12, Tony Froud (Joseph of Arimathea); Pilgrim 13, Sonia di Lorenzo (Nicodemus); Pilgrim 14, Emily Hansen (Mary Magdalene).

Pilgrim 15, Raqhael Harte (Thomas); Pilgrim 16, Samuel Valentine (Centurion); Pilgrim 17, Joy Warner (Soldier 1); Pilgrim 18, Harold Mozley (Soldier 2); Pilgrim 19 Janice Barnes Newton (Soldier 3), and Pilgrim 20, Colin Lea (Soldier 4). Plus David Denbigh.  

Production team credits:

Director, Philip Parr; associate director, Terry Ram; producer, Simon Tompsett. 

York Mystery Plays to be staged in Dean’s Park in A Resurrection For York in July

Raqhael Harte’s Mary with the infant Jesus in York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust’s production of A Nativity For York in December 2019 at the Spurriergate Centre, York. Picture: John Saunders

A RESURRECTION For York will undergo its own resurrection this summer after Covid-19 put the kibosh on the original theatre production.

Plans for the play had to be put on hold earlier this year under pandemic restrictions, but partners York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust, York Festival Trust and York Minster have settled on new performance dates of July 3 and 4.

Directed by Philip Parr, artistic director of Parrabbola, the show’s format will be retained: one hour long, staged outdoors, on two static wagons.

The location will be the Residents Gardens, at Minster Library, Dean’s Park, alongside York Minster, where the limited audience size for each day’s 11am, 2pm and 4pm performances will be governed by the prevailing social-distancing guidelines.

Linda Terry, chair of York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust, says: “With our partners, we have been working hard to bring back live theatre to the city after such a difficult time. The York Mystery Plays have survived past plagues; we wanted to play our part in a new beginning, creating an optimistic and safe event, bringing people together in a vividly imagined drama from York’s literary and cultural inheritance.”

York Festival Trust director Roger Lee is equally enthusiastic: “With arts and culture among the last areas of our lives allowed to return, York Festival Trust is delighted to be part of this project to bring York Mystery Plays back to the city this summer and to support the rebirth of live performing arts,” he says.

The Dean of York, the Right Reverend Dr Jonathan Frost, is “delighted that after the lockdown we have all experienced, events crucial to the life and story of York are beginning to happen again”.

“The theme for the York Mystery Plays this year is resurrection,” he says. “It would be hard to think of a more appropriate focus for a society, community and city coming back to life after a torrid journey. I do hope everyone will find time to enjoy the Mystery Plays.”

Since his appointment as director in March, Parr has been working on the new script with Tom Straszewski, director of the 2018 wagon production of the York Mystery Plays, and auditioning a community cast.

Previously, Parr directed York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust’s production of A Nativity For York at the Spurriergate Centre, York, in December 2019.

Tickets for A Resurrection For York are on sale at ticketsource.co.uk/whats-on/york/residents-garden-deans-park/a-resurrection-for-york/

New partnership to mount Easter open-air production of The York Passion in April

New partnership: York Festival Trust, York Minster and York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust to present The York Passion at Easter

YORK’S new theatre partnership is seeking a director for The York Passion, an outdoor staging planned for Easter Saturday and Monday.

For the first time, York Festival Trust, York Minster and York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust are working together to present an Easter production, performed on two or possibly three static pageant waggons on the hard standing in front of the Minster School, opposite York Minster.

Three performances per day will be staged on April 2 and 4; tickets will be sold for a nominal charge to ensure appropriate Covid-secure distancing arrangements are applied.

The director will be required to create a single play – no more than 70 minutes straight through – from the pageants in the original York Mystery Plays.

The director’s vision must embrace elements from the Crucifixion, the Death of Christ and the Resurrection, possibly starting with the Road to Calvary and ending with the Appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene.

Tom Straszewski, artistic director of the 2018 York Mystery Plays’ waggon production and 2022 Lincoln Mystery Plays, has produced a working script that can be adapted to meet the director’s requirements, including cutting and modernising the original text.

Cast and crew will be drawn from open auditions from the York community: a tradition of the York Mystery Plays since mediaeval times. Auditions and rehearsals will be conducted virtually, in accordance with Government Coronavirus measures.

Tom Straszewski: Working script that can be adapted to meet the director’s requirements

Linda Terry, chair of York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust, says: “Despite the current dark times, we felt that it was right to look forward and create an opportunity for people to participate in, and enjoy, a theatrical production that fulfilled our aim of keeping York’s Medieval Mystery Play heritage alive in a format that could be enjoyed safely.

“With the country now in its third lockdown, it is unclear what public health measures will be in place during the rehearsal phase and indeed it is quite possible that we may have to cancel or postpone the production, but any such decision will be taken jointly by the partnership and the director.”

For the Easter production, The Passion Trust – a charity focused on performances of Passion plays, including community events, around Britain – has provided funding specifically for live screening a performance to be uploaded subsequently to YouTube.

Roger Lee, York Festival Trust’s chair, highlights the new partnership’s extensive experience: “All three partners have mounted productions of the York Mystery Plays over the past five to 30 years,” he says.

“With the exception of York Minster, the organisations are not exclusively Christian, but the Festival Trust has directed community groups in producing sections of the cycle on waggons every four years since 2002, but this will be the first time the Crucifixion and Resurrection pageants are staged together as a single play.”

Applicants for the director’s role should provide a CV and a proposal for their vision for the open-air production on one side of A4 by midnight on January 30 2021.

A special director information pack is available. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for discussion by Zoom. Applications and enquiries should be emailed to: linda.terry@ympst.co.uk

Artistic director sought for York Mystery Plays’ spring Passion Play production

Tom Straszewski: Writing an hour-long script for this spring’s Passion Play, presented by the York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust, York Minster and York Festival Trust

AN artistic director is being sought for the York Mystery Plays’ outdoor community production of The Passion and Death of Christ at Easter.

The director will be expected to audition and rehearse in York, possibly virtually in the early stages, and then indoors and outdoors as Covid restrictions permit.

Applicants are asked to submit a one-page initial idea for the Passion Play production, along with a CV. Interest should be registered by emailing York Festival Trust chairman Roger Lee at: roger@yorkmysteryplays.co.uk. More details can be found at: bit.ly/YorkPassionPlay#yorkmysteryplays#york#theatre@YorkFestTrust

Tom Straszewski, director of the 2018 production on York’s streets, is developing an hour-long script for staging on waggons in the grounds of the Minster School, Minster Yard, Deangate, York.

Three performances a day will take place on Saturday, April 3 and Monday, April 5, mounted by a three-way partnership of York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust, York Minster and York Festival Trust.

Funding for the spring production will come from York Festival Trust and York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust, boosted by a £2,000 grant received already from The Passion Plays Trust. Audience members will pay a nominal sum for tickets to enable the organisers to safely manage numbers, access and distancing, if Covid restrictions still apply.

There will be opportunity for involvement in all aspects of the production. Watch this space for updates.

York Mystery Plays head off streets and into homes for Strasz’s film/theatre project

Tom Straszewski’s cardboard waggon from his York Mysteries @ Home films

YORK theatre director and academic Tom Straszewski is seeking participants for York Mysteries @ Home, the chance to make a York Mystery Play in your abode.

“As part of my PhD on the York Mysteries and community theatre, I invite you and your household to create your own performances of one of the Mystery Plays at home,” he says.

“This approach is inspired by the medieval origins of the Mysteries, where Guild members worked from home on their crafts.”

Strasz has put together five DIY plays himself already that can be viewed on YouTube at https://tinyurl.com/homemysteries.

“Finding myself in a similar position, and limited to what was already in the house, I’ve been creating plays from whatever items I had lying around: often props and materials left over from old performances.”

Offering guidance, Strasz says: “You might have your own hobby or craft that provides inspiration. The main thing is to draw on what you already have, so that your play is personal to you and your home.

“This will then build up to a screening of the plays in the autumn next year, perhaps at a York venue, perhaps online.”

Anyone interested in taking on one of the plays is asked to e-mail Strasz at: Thomas.Straszewski@york.ac.uk. “If you have a particular play in mind, then include that, and any initial thoughts and ideas,” he advises.

“I’ll be running this in batches of five plays every month or so. If there’s a play later in the schedule you’re particularly interested in creating, let me know now and I’ll be in touch when we reach it – no commitment required.”

For more details, visit the website:
https://www.yorkmysteriesathome.co.uk/create-your-own.html


FROM this evening, additionally Strasz will be hosting a weekly read-through of the Mystery Plays every Tuesday on Zoom from 7.30pm to 9pm.

“These evenings are an opportunity to read each play out loud and discuss them with fellow friends of the York Mystery Plays,” he says.

“The ideas and connections made will hopefully lead to a full production of the Mystery Plays in the future, with these read-throughs as one way to form the performance right from the start.”

Strasz’s read-throughs will work through the 48 mediaeval plays in order. “We’ll be starting with The Creation Of The Heavens and The Fall Of Lucifer and we should be reaching The Nativity in December,” he says.

“As an informal group, you can drop in and out each week, depending on how often you’d like to attend.”

The Zoom details can be acquired by e-mailing Strasz at: thomas.straszewski@york.ac.uk. Scripts will be available via the YorkMysteries@Home website, under the Resources page.

“At a time when people are struggling to keep a sense of community at a distance, I think there’s a real need for the Mysteries – and for York’s community theatre more generally,” says Strasz

Here Charles Hutchinson puts questions to Tom Straszewski on his DIY community project, York Mysteries @ Home.

Which plays have you done?

“So far, I’ve performed the first seven plays, and five are available online to date, from The Creation Of The Heavens to Cain And Abel. As winter closes in, I’ll hopefully reach The Nativity and make it to The Last Supper in time for Easter.”

What is the most unusual prop you have used?

“I don’t know about unusual, but I’ve enjoyed the matchsticks for Lucifer. Originally matches were made with sulphur and called ‘lucifers’ – light-bringers – which is the sort of bad pun I relish.

“I’ve got my eye on my son’s toy watering can for The Flood and lots of old props and costumes from my past plays will appear. It’s like seeing familiar actors in plays; I always enjoy spotting old props and costumes being reused.”

How have you filmed the Plays?  On your phone or with a camera?

“All on my phone – you don’t need anything fancy. And it’s theatre, not film, playing in the moment, not editing the best shots together.

“Having said that, the first one I did was disastrous! I dropped the phone halfway through, just as I ate my last prop – a strawberry from the garden – so I did edit that one a bit. I’ve switched to using a tripod to avoid a repeat.”

In the ruff: Tom Straszewski in rehearsal with York actor Jess Murray. Picture: JTU Photography

What skills might you like Mystery Play home-play creators to display in the Plays they do?

“It could be anything: I’ve had suggestions of baking for The Last Supper and wood-working for The Crucifixion, which is fitting. If anybody out there paints stained glass, I’d love to see their take on any of the Plays with angels.

“But it could be as simple as finger-painting, sock puppets or Lego. The main thing is to find out how to tell these amazing stories in your own home with what’s available to you. Be bold and imaginative. And be willing to be surprised at how your idea of your home changes.”

Do you have anywhere in mind for showing the Mystery Plays films in York?

“Further lockdown permitting, it would be wonderful to hold it in somewhere linked to the Plays, one of the guild halls, perhaps, or in Museum Gardens. I’ll be looking for some collaborators to help put this on, assuming we’re allowed out of the house again by then. If not, we’ll hold a socially distanced celebration of everybody’s work online instead.”

Are the Plays being done in a particular order or in thematic clusters?

“I’m dependent on who volunteers to take on each play, but I’m hoping to work through them roughly in linear order, starting with The Creation and finishing with The Last Judgement. But if anybody has a burning need to do one of the later plays right now, there’s no need to wait.”

Is there previous history of the York Mystery Plays being performed in homes?

“Yes. It was wonderful to hear York Theatre Royal take on the plays as radio drama, recorded remotely in each actor’s own home during lockdown [for broadcast on Jonathan Cowap’s Sunday morning show on BBC Radio York]. But I missed the visuals!

“I was talking to a group of previous actors in the Plays and they all said the sense of spectacle was essential to the Mystery Plays. So, this project hopefully brings that back, on a tiny scale.

A Zoom rehearsal, led by director Juliet Forster, second from right, top row, for The Flood, part of this summer’s York Radio Mystery Plays recorded by York Theatre Royal

 “And the medieval guilds who put on the plays often had their workshops in their homes, open to the public. So, making the plays at home draws on that sense of craftwork as a performance.”

Why are you so drawn to the Mystery Plays: what makes them resonate with you?

“Within the Plays themselves, it’s the marriage of the epic sweep with intimate moments: one minute creating the whole world, the next moment seeing Adam and Eve arguing over who should take the blame for messing up.

“On that domestic scale, the story of Mary takes her from a teenager in an impossible situation, to mourning her son, to acting as a matriarch for a whole host of disciples. I’d love to really focus on her story one day.

“And that gives a sense of how endless the possibilities are. In 2018 alone, for the Waggon Plays that summer, people based their Mystery Plays on children’s pop-up books, Russian art, street graffiti, Greek choruses, medieval tapestries, modern atrocities, climate change, to mention just a few. Shakespeare is probably the only other drama that sees that breadth of staging possibilities.

“The other thing that always stands out for me are the moments outside the Plays themselves – seeing somebody conquer their shyness, or find a new talent, or make new friends backstage. And they bring people together all across York.

“At a time when people are struggling to keep a sense of community at a distance, I think there’s a real need for the Mysteries – and for York’s community theatre more generally.”