A biblical epic! Vast scale of York Minster Mystery Plays revealed by new behind-the-scenes pix

Naughty and nice… Marcus Richardson as the Devil and Imogen Ruby Little his angelic companion. Photograph: Richard McDougall
5 May 2016 @ 4.30 pm
| News
Naughty and nice… Marcus Richardson as the Devil and Imogen Ruby Little his angelic companion. Photograph: Richard McDougall
Naughty and nice… Marcus Richardson as the Devil and Imogen Ruby Little his angelic companion. Photograph: Richard McDougall

Judging by our latest photographs, the York Minster Mystery Plays will combine drama on an epic scale with remarkable attention to detail.

As opening night edges closer, the huge production is beginning to take shape.

The sets, already previewed in model form, are now being constructed in the enormous nave of York Minster.

And the wigs and make-up for the principals and supporting cast – made up of hundreds of community players – are being finalised.

York Minster Mystery Plays

Thu May 26-Thu June 30

£40-£25, matinees from £15

Mystery Plays website

Set takes shape

This panorama image shows how the set sits within York Minster's vast nave
This panorama image shows how the set sits within York Minster’s vast nave
York Minster is being transformed into a 1,000 seater auditorium as the Mystery Plays are staged in the great cathedral for the first time in 16 years – and only the second time in their history.

These photographs show the progress so far. The stage is partially completed, while sound and lighting rigs will be installed next week.

Close-up…
Close-up…
…further back…
…further back…

This sequence shows one of the craftsmen constructing the set from three different viewpoints, giving a further sense of scale
…And further back still. This sequence shows one of the craftsmen constructing the set from three different viewpoints, giving a further sense of scale

Bringing the characters to life

One of the wigs in the workshops housed in St William's College
One of the wigs in the workshops housed in St William’s College

Professional theatre wig, hair and make-up artists Deb Kenton and Jules Greenan are leading a team of local volunteers to create the on-stage appearance for over 200 cast members.

The numerous beards and wigs that will be required are being created along with designs for make-up ranging from Jesus and doves through to realistic scars for the devils.

Deb said:

Make up really helps to bring the characters to life on stage.

It’s a hugely exciting opportunity use our skills to wield the magic and help create the stunning visual spectacle that has historically accompanied these epic plays.

It is also a fantastic challenge because an actor may be playing a role requiring them to have a beard in one scene and then be clean shaven in the next.

Make up, wigs and facial hair must all be able to be removed quickly so that actors can change characters quickly throughout the play.

The artistic team behind the 2016 Mystery Plays includes director Phillip Breen, of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and writer Mike Poulton.

Mike wrote the scripts for the RSC’s productions of Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, based on the best-selling novels by Hilary Mantel.