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Photos: Angels in York to Promote Mystery Plays

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A host of modern-dress cherubs flew in to York city centre on Saturday (15 May 2010) to spread the word about Durham Mysteries, a new contemporary revival of a mystery play cycle taking place in Durham over three evenings at the end of the month (27-29 May).

Also in attendance were angelic representatives from the historic York Mystery Plays, which take place this year on 11 and 18 July.

Roger Lee, chairman of the York Mystery Plays, said: “There have been so many performances of the plays in York and this new initiative by Durham is good news for the performance of Mystery Plays generally. York probably lays claim to be the natural home of Mystery Plays and has the only surviving original manuscript on display at York Art Gallery this year. But, we welcome the Durham ‘upstarts’ and hope that our collective efforts will attract even more people to learn and see more of Mystery Plays in 2010 and in future.”

Similarly to York, Durham, due to its rich religious heritage, was one of places Mystery plays would have been performed during the medieval period, however the Durham cycle has been lost for hundreds of years.

Durham Gala Theatre’s Simon Stallworthy is the project’s creative director. He said: “When I first moved to Durham I thought there might be some mystery plays, like with York, but pretty quickly I found they had been lost over the years. I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to take the mystery plays - The Fall of Lucifer, Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, The Nativity, Cain and Abel - as a starting point and commission some new plays by asking writers: ‘Which mystery plays would you choose’?; How would you write it?

“With the help of ten of the best creative talents in the industry today, including the likes of David Almond, who has written a Geordie version of Noah and the Fludd, and BBC Radio 3’s Ian McMillan, who has penned mystery play God’s Day Off - detailing what God got up to on the seventh day, we have created a contemporary revival of Durham’s medieval mystery play cycle for a modern audience“.

With York’s Mystery Plays taking place every four years, and Durham’s cycle planned to run every three, it means that 2010 is the only time for the next 12years that people will get the chance to experience both cycles together.

Roger Lee, added: “Rather than being in competition, the York and Durham Mystery cycles work to complement one another, offering very different takes on a much loved theatrical tradition.

“The plays just go to show that Mystery Plays are something that is still very relevant to audiences today, and I only hope people take advantage of this very unique opportunity to experience two very different takes on the medieval mystery tradition.”


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