In existence since at least 1399, suppressed during the Reformation of the 1570s, each new production of the York Mystery Plays has, since being revived in 1951, been eagerly awaited, each attempting to build on a great tradition, while making them fresh and accessible for a new audience.
For 2012, writer Mike Kenny has condensed the forty-eight guild plays into one, and the fourteen-hour running time into three, while the co-directors, Paul Burbridge and Damian Cruden, have ‘given the plays back to the people’, filling the stage with local volunteers, recreating the spirit of the citizens of York who first performed the plays. Some five hundred actors, forming two alternating casts, must have made rehearsals logistically complex, rather like “a game of chess”. Yet it works perfectly. The cast flood the stage in seconds and fade away equally quietly and efficiently. While on stage, they remain in character, living their parts, and clearly enjoying the experience. Two professional actors complete the cast, Graeme Hawley as Satan, and Ferdinand Kingsley brilliantly holding the whole piece together, bringing to his dual roles of God and Jesus the consummate art he shows at the National Theatre or the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
Past productions have occasionally been in York Theatre Royal and York Minster, but this year it is in its natural home, Museum Gardens, with the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey as its backcloth. As the sun sets, watching becomes a heightened experience. The set, designed by Sean Cavanagh, with its subdued wood effect, is deceptively simple, only gradually revealing its secrets, hidden trapdoors and sliding panels. The building of the set, along with the making of the colourful costumes, and the local actors themselves, makes this production a Community Project at its very best.
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
The Visit York 2013 Award nominations have been announced with York Mystery Plays 2012 up for 2 titles.
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
The marketing campaign for the York Mystery Plays 2012 has been shortlisted for a prestigious TMA award.