Mystery Plays roll back into town: Where and when to see them

11 Jul 2014 @ 4.32 pm
| News
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The mystery plays are packed full of drama, as this shot from the 2010 production shows

After four years of planning, waggons will roll onto the streets the next two Sundays (July 13 and 20) delivering a new version of the ancient York Mystery Plays.

Nigh-on 600 community participants, including actors, set builders, waggon pushers and musicians, are involved in a production which is set to bring colour and drama to the city streets.

Performances will start in Dean’s Park, near York Minster, at noon and then the waggons will process through the streets to stop and perform at three more stations, finishing at the last station at about 7pm

You can buy tickets for all 12 plays in one place, or sit in different stations, or watch one part and then explore the city

Covered, tiered seating is available at two of the stations, Dean’s Park and Museum Gardens

College Green offers space to spread out a rug on the grass.

In King’s Square, one of the medieval playing stations, you can experience something of the original sense of the plays

The 12 medieval plays are staged on pageant waggons by the ancient city guilds.

They tell the story of the world from the beginning of all things to the end of all things. A specially written chorus will feature for the first time in the 2014 cycle.

The cycle runs from the comedy of the play telling God’s creation of the world, to the joyous crowd scenes in Jerusalem, through to the crucifixion and the great set-piece dramas of the Harrowing of Hell and The Last Judgement.

This year sees new artistic director Deborah Pakkar Hull charged with creating a fresh approach to this ancient tradition from the 48 surviving scripts.

She said: “The cycle I have chosen for 2014 tells a story of the struggle between good and evil, beginning and ending in the heavenly domain, before being played out on an earthly, human plane with Jesus either present in, or the focus of a series of dilemmas, difficulties and enterprises.

“A human story that, hopefully, will resonate with a 21st century audience as much as it did for the original medieval audiences.”

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The plays are performed from waggons just as they were centuries ago
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You’ll meet all manner of mysterious and colourful characters…

The tradition of the Guilds of York staging the bible stories disappeared for a while. It was revived in the Nineties by York Festival Trust and they have been going from strength to strength ever since.

Roger Lee, chairman of the trust said: “We are looking forward to another bumper year – the 2010 plays were seen by over 2,000 people from all over the world, and this year we have expanded into the weeks between the Sunday performances with a festival that explores the plays and medieval music.”

  • York Mystery Plays will be performed in York on Sundays 13th and 20th July 2014
  • Watch one or watch them all, bring a picnic and sit on the grass or buy a ticket and sit in comfort
  • Tickets are available from the York Mystery Plays website