These animals created for York Mystery Plays are so good you’ll want to take them home

Volunteer prop maker Joanna Jeffries with a flock of sheep
15 Apr 2016 @ 3.19 pm
| News
A tall story… Two Mystery Play giraffes get their heads together outside York Minster. Photographs: Richard McDougall
A tall story… Two Mystery Play giraffes get their heads together outside York Minster. Photographs: Richard McDougall

It’s not every day you see two giraffes conversing outside the Minster.

But miracles do happen – and these were giraffes from the York Minster Mystery Plays after all…

With only six weeks to go to opening night, the backstage team have been working tirelessly on the set design, props and costumes.

Gerald and Geraldine here are just two of the creatures that prop designer Beckie May and her talented team are creating for the Creation (and Noah’s Ark of course).

York Minster Mystery Plays

Thu May 26-Thu June 30

£40-£25, matinees from £15

Mystery Plays website

More than 100 animals are required to populate the Mystery Plays, from bears to beavers, fish to flamingos. The long-dead dodo is being brought back to life for the production, and they’re even spawning a whale.

A bear and his lunch
A bear and his lunch
A wise old bird
A wise old bird

The props team have other challenges too. Like making…

  • 48 angel wings
  • 50 halos
  • a manger
  • and crown of thorns.

Material has been assembled from across Yorkshire. Wood for staffs and walking sticks comes from a Scarborough tree surgeon.

The model sheep are clothed in wool sheared from a Hebridean herd that graze in Pickering.

Volunteer prop maker Joanna Jeffries with a flock of sheep
Volunteer prop maker Joanna Jeffries with a flock of sheep
Stuck on the shelf… the dodos
Stuck on the shelf… the dodos
Is this the Brit cousin of Sam, the American eagle?
Is this the Brit cousin of Sam, the American eagle?
Star in stripes
You don’t want to wake up with this in your bed

The costumes for the hundreds of characters are also beginning to take shape under the watchful eye of costume supervisor Fiona Parker.

Fiona and her team of volunteers are beavering away on their sewing machines to create costumes for everyone from Jesus to the angels and devils.

Costumes supervisor Fiona Parker with some of the outfits stored at St William's College
Costumes supervisor Fiona Parker with some of the outfits stored at St William’s College
Some more of the hundreds of costumes
Some more of the hundreds of costumes

The Mystery Plays will see York Minster’s magnificent Nave transformed into a 1,000-seater auditorium for 41 performances of the plays

A model of the amazing set has also been revealed. It is designed by Max Jones, the man behind numerous Royal Shakespeare Company and West Yorkshire Playhouse sets.

Designer Max Jones looks through the nave of his model set
Designer Max Jones looks through the nave of his model set
The pulpit seen at the front of the set
The pulpit seen at the front of the set

Producer of the York Minster Mystery Plays Nicola Corp said:

It’s a Yorkshire-wide community effort to bring these epic plays to fruition this summer with volunteers from throughout the region featuring in the cast and busy working behind the scenes on everything from creating props to make-up and costume creation.

This hard work will all come together with a spectacular show within the dramatic setting of the Minster.


And afterwards? We’ll need to find a home for a lot of rather cute stray animals…

Ruminant at the top
Ruminant at the top
Wool I never…
Wool I never…