Dig Yorkshire - 14 August 2012

Jade Montserrat


York Mystery Plays 2012


This is the celebratory, collaborative, community orientated, courageous and ‘faith-full’ adaptation (by Mike Kenny) of the greatest story ever told.

Before the production even begins, York Museum Gardens is pulsating. As the spectacle gallops ahead the audience experiences an energetic, exciting buzz. The anticipation, as God (played by the inescapably dashing, heroic-looking actor, Ferdinand Kingsley) scrawls his plans for creation on the enormous thrust stage, mounts and accelerates.

The pace is only soothed by the whispers of nature: dandelion seed heads drift listlessly on the breeze, the sun sets gloriously and pigeons soar, disturbed by the voluminous, beautifully pitched, integrated choir from the stalls.

The staging of this year’s Mystery Plays must be noted for the humble yet refined and majestically envisioned props and scenery. The audience’s understanding and appreciation of The Mysteries is made contemporaneous through the actors costumes, distinctly those of the First and Second World War years.

The audience is initially enraptured by this aspect of the adaptation when the Garden of Eden, a fantastical, ingenious animal topiary garden, is tended to by the land army. Throughout the Plays, the immaculate parallels to this devastating period in 20th century world history.

This highlights prevailing class systems, savagery and cowardice, tyranny, hopelessness and bloodshed. It assumes a position that makes it hard to appreciate whether or not we have made much ‘progress’.

One imagines that the production, made up of over 500 gender-liberated cast members, is one large family working together. Adam and Eve are introduced as school children, together naïve, unself-conscious and noticeably not precocious.

Other members of the cast are evidently old enough to be their great-grandparents. The lasting appeal of the plays is its inclusivity: it applies to humanity and not exclusively to a Christian community.

The antediluvian story reinstates certain applications of human nature, without taking a moralistic high-ground: the perils of temptation, the blessedness of companionship, including living in balance with nature and the gratitude of plenty.

The audience is confronted with natural emotions that necessarily need to be quashed: blame, despair and desperation. The epic story is forever relevant, issuing forth idioms of forgiveness, acknowledging the permanence of regret and the ability for all to harness joy.

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Recent News

Join us at the Visit York Tourism Awards!

Join us at the Visit York Tourism Awards!
Were you a York Mystery Plays 2012 volunteer? Do you want to join us at the Visit York Tourism Awards 2013?

2012 Production Nominated For 2 Awards

2012 Production Nominated For 2 Awards
The Visit York 2013 Award nominations have been announced with York Mystery Plays 2012 up for 2 titles.

York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust formed

York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust formed
A group of people involved in York Mystery Plays 2012 launch a new group to support future productions.

York Mystery Plays 2012 shortlisted for award

York Mystery Plays 2012 shortlisted for award
The marketing campaign for the York Mystery Plays 2012 has been shortlisted for a prestigious TMA award.