York Mystery Plays

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The Plays Move On

The Plays continued to be performed outdoors in the ruins of St Mary's Abbey each three or four years, until 1988. Roger Farrington as Noh 1988
Occasionally an evening show had to be cancelled but the audiences were well used to packing umbrellas, blankets, and flasks of tea. They took the English summer's vagaries in their stride. Technicians grew used to wearing rain macs or sun tan lotion. The actors who played the part of Christ loved, or hated, the experience of standing for hours in the sometimes chilly Yorkshire weather as the sun faded behind St Olave's Church and the Museum Garden peacocks screeched their personal farewell to the evening light.

But circumstances changed and in 1992, York City Council moved the production indoors to York Theatre Royal after abandoning plans for the plays to be a promenade performance in the Museum Gardens. (See archive cuttings.) The production, which featured Robson Green as Christ and was directed by Ian Forrest, was very different from anything seen before. Some applauded the modern, mechanistic direction and music, others felt that the plays had lost their romance. A second production, directed by John Doyle with local actor Rory Mulvihill, took place in 1996, also with a script by Liz Lochhead.

The indoor/outdoor debate continued. Then came the Millennium production in the nave of York Minster, with the permission of the Dean and Chapter, in 2000. Rev. Dean Ray Furnell recorded an interview for the NCEM about his experiences, and gave support through the Board of York Millennium Plays. Here is the cast list and here are photographs of that production.
York Minster 1999

In 2016 the Plays were again spectacularly produced in the Minster, with a record 41 performances. Roger Farrington (top) again played Noah.
In Museum Gardens in 2012, the cast were outdoors but the audience sheltered, presented by York Theatre Royal and Riding Lights Theatre Company.  The production had new music by Christopher Madin and a script by York writer Mike Kenny. See here for photographs, or here for a cast list. The Creation and the Flood were performed on wagons outdoors on two days.
Below left, the Magi worship the new-born Christ (2012). Bottom right, the resurrected Christ (2016).
Nativity 2012

The Play cycle has been performed on wagons in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022.  In December 2019 was an indoor Nativity production, in 2021 a socially distanced Resurrection for York and in December 2022 another indoor Nativity In June 2023 to mark St John's day a new production was performed of the Baptism in Holy Trinity Goodramgate.  Bottom left, Becky Sheard is a demon tormenting Judas, in 2018.  In that year and in 2022 the Shambles Market was turned into an evening location for the Plays Marshall Baptism 2023too.  A list of all this website's pages to help you Shambles-Satan-soulsnavigate is on this page.
Philip McGinley, 2016
Demon 2018