Local workshops have been taken over as pageant waggons are made ready for the twelve plays (from the fifty three mediæval plays of the York Cycle) chosen by the director, Deborrah Pakkar Hull. Her selection has been designed to tell a story of the struggle between good and evil (says Deborrah) beginning in the heavenly domain, before being played out on an earthly, human plane, with Jesus either present in, or the focus of, a series of dilemmas, difficulties and enterprises that explore this struggle. Themes such as suffering, sacrifice, temptation, betrayal and redemption form the backbone, enabling the story to reach beyond the mediæval text and speak to modern day audiences.
From ‘The Creation’ to ‘The Last Judgement’, the Bible story is performed directly to the shoppers and visitors in the historic streets of York. Some plays are humorous (‘The Shepherds’) and some are heartrending (‘The Slaughter of the Innocents’). One cannot help being moved by this in-your-face theatre.
Sundays 13th and 20th July (from about midday) will see the streets of York filled with the colours of the pageant procession. Several hundred willing volunteers from the community will convert the centre of York into one large venue for the Mystery Plays. Actors, musicians, costumiers, prop and set makers and waggon pushers, together with a few professionals, are all involved to bring forth this spectacle. The Pageant Master and the Event Manager work together to produce a strict timetable that makes for a continuous flow of plays and for free passage of the waggons in the narrow streets.
The plays may be viewed by either staying at one of four ‘stations’ and allowing the procession of plays to arrive and be presented, or by following the ‘waggon-cade’ with a bit of picking and choosing of one’s own itinerary. The plays can be viewed for free, without a ticket, or tickets can be purchased if you prefer the comfort of a seat in a covered area.
For seat bookings, timings and station positions, please contact York Festival Trust at www.yorkmysteryplays.co.uk