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Mystery Plays Return to York

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The celebrated York Mystery Plays will be returning to the York Museum Gardens with a full scale production after a hiatus of over a decade. York Theatre Royal, Riding Lights Theatre Company and York Museum Trust will be working together with the City of York Council to bring the Mystery Plays back to the Museum Gardens in August 2012.

Paul Burbridge (Riding Lights) and Damian Cruden (York Theatre Royal) will come together to provide artistic direction to the 2012 production. In a joint statement, Cruden and Burbridge said that they are looking to “bring an extraordinary and passionate performance out of our community, resourced with the highest aesthetic and production values.” Liz Wilson, Chief Executive of York Theatre Royal said “The staging of the York Mystery Plays in 2012 in the Museum Gardens will be an incredible spectacle. We hope to start working with the people of York from today on an event of which we will be proud.”

In Summer 2011, in anticipation of the Mystery Plays, York Theatre Royal and Riding Lights Theatre Company will collaborate to produce Anthony Minghella’s Two Planks and a Passion, a comic account of the citizens of York staging a medieval production of the Mystery Plays, with opportunities for locals to take part.

Originally performed in the 14th century on Corpus Christi day, the plays travelled through the streets of York on waggons, as the actors performed to various gathered audiences across the city from sunrise to sunset. The plays reach a powerful climax with the story of Doomsday being performed at dusk. Traditionally, Jesus is played by a professional actor, while local amateurs make up the rest of the cast.

The Mystery Plays were revived in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain when they were performed in the ambient ruins of St Mary’s Abbey in the Museums Gardens. They continued to be performed every four years in the Museum Gardens until in 1988 when due to poor weather conditions and rising costs; the productions were brought indoors to the York Theatre Royal. In 2000, near 30,000 people enjoyed the acclaimed Millennium Mystery plays at the grand York Minister for the last full scale production of the York Mystery Plays to date. Since then, local amateur organisations and Guilds have continued to perform the plays in their original form every four years at various points across the city.

Cllr Andrew Waller of City of York Council said: "The Mystery Plays are a huge draw to the city, and help residents and visitors alike to celebrate our heritage.”

People wishing to be involved in this new production can register their interest at www.yorkmysteryplays-2012.com.

- Kirsty Hulse


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