York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust’s young directors to stage A Creation For York trilogy around Micklegate on June 1

Katie Smith: Directing The Creation Of Man at St Columba’s, Priory Street

YORK Mystery Plays Supporters Trust will stage A Creation For York on June 1 in a promenade production around Micklegate in runs at 2pm and 3.30pm.

Three aspiring directors mentored by Dr Tom Straszewski, a past director of the York Wagon Play cycle, will be presenting their visions of a trilogy of 20-minute plays from the Creation cycle with a community cast and production team.

The promenade procession will start with The Creation Of Man at St Columba’s, Priory Street, at 2pm and 3.30pm, and progress to Holy Trinity, Micklegate, for The Fall Of Man at 3pm and 4.30pm, then onwards to St Martin’s Stained Glass Centre, Micklegate, for Cain And Abel at 4pm and 5.30pm. On each run, the weary traveller can enjoy refreshments before the third play begins at St Martin’s.

Katie Smith, director of The Creation Of Man, studied acting at Plymouth Conservatoire and is undertaking a Masters in English Literary Studies in York.

“The essence of any piece of theatre is a vision made a reality through the work of a group of artists,” says Katie. “My own vision for The Creation was inspired by workshops of the Italian Renaissance and the artists and polymaths of that time, and so God became a master artist, an inventor, architect, scientist.

“Lucifer was a talented, arrogant apprentice, the other angels hard-working assistants, and the performance space became a bustling art studio, bringing God’s vision to life.

“In turning these ideas into a reality, I have had the privilege of working with an incredibly talented group of artists, from the actors you see on stage, to our composer, set designers, costume makers, and countless others.

“For a performance so centred on the concept of ‘creation’, their work is not just vital in bringing the piece to life, but a reflection of the imagination, creativity, and artistry at the heart of the play.”

In Katie’s cast will be: Daniel Wilmot as Deus; Harry Summers, Lucifer; Colin Lea, Diabolus; Tess Wingard, Seraphyn/Clarinet; Julie Speedie, Cherabyn; Samuel Jackson, Adam, and Joy Warner, Eve. 

Dan Norman: Director of The Fall Of Man at Holy Trinity, Micklegate

Dan Norman, directing The Fall Of Man, is a writer who has directed short films and is venturing into directing theatre for the first time.

“Reading through the three Mystery Plays that make up The Fall Of Man, it is striking how separate Adam and Eve are,” says Dan. “Adam speaks with the Angel, and Eve speaks with Satan, but there’s no interaction between them until Eve persuades Adam to eat the apple.  Their most prolonged conversation is the climactic argument.

“Adam and Eve’s relationship is uniquely strange. Eve was custom-made for Adam – but from the same material has become someone very different to him. Shared humanity must be an odd concept when you are the first humans, and being a partner holds extra significance when you are the only two people.

“At the start of the play, the Angel instructs Adam and Eve that ‘from this hour ye never twin’. The commandment not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge sticks with them, but this one they seem to forget. Maybe it was just as important.”

Dan’s cast comprises David Lancaster as the Angel; Val Burgess, Satan; Nicola Peard, Eve; Oliver Howard, Adam, and David Denbigh, God/Violin.

Isobel Staton, in charge of Cain And Abel, has completed her PhD in Medieval History and has worked with the Lords of Misrule at the University of York.

“In The Sacrifice Of Cain And Abel, humanity reaps the harvest that was sown during The Fall Of Man,” she says. “The children of Adam and Eve – Cain and Abel – must toil to grow and raise their food by ‘the sweat of [their] brow’. Following his father, Cain takes uparable farming, struggling to grow a crop which is not overtaken by thorns and briars while his harvest gets smaller year on year.

“Abel, on the other hand, takes up sheep-farming and is blessed with bounty and relaxation (although outside a play I would never suggest that sheep-farming was easy work!).

“From Cain and Abel’s differing experiences of farming grows resentment, jealousy, deeply different relationships to God, and a conflicting attitude to tithing and sacrifice. What began as a rift between Adam and Eve ends in murder with their sons.

Isobel Staton: Directing Cain And Abel at St Martin’s Stained Glass Centre, Micklegate

“The script of York’s Cain And Abel has been partially lost. In this performance, that lost portion has been filled with an extract from The Murder Of Abel from the Towneley cycle (a related mystery play tradition thought to have been performed in Wakefield), which shares many of the same preoccupations and tensions.”

Isabel’s cast will feature James Tyler as Cain, Allyson Butler as Abel and Charlotte Turner as the Angel, along with musician Jonathan Brockbank and singer Evie Hartley-Rapson.

Music for the production has been composed by musical director Desmond Clarke, who is joined in the production team by producers Emily Hansen and Janice Newton, wardrobe trio Trisha Campbell, Beverley Foster and Claire Little and set and prop designers Richard Hampton, Linda Lockett and Jon Mills.

Looking forward to next weekend, trust chair Linda Terry says: “We are thrilled to offer the opportunity to new directors to take part in York’s heritage tradition and to offer them the benefit of Dr Tom Straszewski’s support. 

“We decided to make this a promenade production with the audience moving between three venues: St Columba’s, Priory Street, Holy Trinity, Micklegate, and St Martin’s Stained Glass Centre, Micklegate. They will be guided on the short walking distance between the venues by cast members.  

“Micklegate was the historical start for performance of the Mystery Plays in the medieval period, so it seems appropriate to bring them back to their home ground. We’ve had terrific support from the venues themselves in staging the event.”

Tickets are on sale at ympst.co.uk/creation. One ticket gives access to all three plays.

In addition, the trio of plays will be performed for the residents of Hartrigg Oaks, in New Earswick, on June 15 as part of the care home’s 25th anniversary celebrations.

Coming next

YORK Mystery Plays Supporters Trust’s next production will be A Nativity For York, touring to The Tithe Barn, Nether Poppleton, St James the Deacon Church Hall, Acomb, and St Oswald’s Church Hall, Fulford, between November 29 and December 7; seven performances in all.

Dr Tom Straszewski: Mentoring three young directors for A Creation For York