In The Mysteries, Satan, dressed head to foot in red leather, transforms himself into a serpent and leads Eve into original sin. Noah pleads with his wife to abandon her vegetable garden and board the ark as the rain begins to fall. In the garden of Gethsemane, Judas betrays God's son with a kiss.
The production, by South Africa's Broomhill Opera company, combines ancient and modern, African and European. Seven different languages are used in the piece - the main four being Afrikaans, English, Xhosa and Zulu - which is performed by a cast of 40 young South African actors of all races, many of whom have had no formal stage training.
The Mysteries draws on the rich choral traditions of African townships and on modern rhythms created with oil drums and penny whistles.
This radical reinvention of the Mystery Plays, formerly given the full title of The Mysteries Yiimimangaliso, received its UK premiere in June 2001, when in had an extended sell-out season while running in repertory with an English-South African co-production of Bizet's Carmen at Wilton's Music Hall in east London.
Built by pub owner John Wilton in 1858, Wilton's is the world's oldest surviving extant music hall, built on the back of a pub. It was closed in the 1880s and later became a Methodist church and then a rag warehouse. Once condemned, it was saved by the intervention of Sir Laurence Olivier, Peter Sellers and Sir John Betjeman.
- by Terri Paddock
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