York Mystery Plays: 1951 to the present day
This is the story of the York Mystery Plays from revival in the Festival of Britain in 1951 to the present day, told by the many individuals who have been involved with the Plays - whether as actors, stage hands or front of house - through their personal memories, photographs and press cuttings. We at the National Centre for Early Music were inspired to 'get on' with talking to people who had been involved with the Plays to record their personal memories before it was too late.
This website is designed to offer a snapshot of the myriad productions of the Plays which have taken place in the city over the past 60 years, whether in the ruins of St Mary's Abbey, on the stage of the York Theatre Royal, in the spectacular nave of York Minster or on the traditional wagons drawn through the streets of the city of York - and to demonstrate the range of musical styles used to enhance the Plays throughout that time.
This project was drawn together by the National Centre for Early Music in Walmgate, York with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the York Millennium Mystery Plays Board, the York Civic Trust, the Feoffees of St Michael's, Spurriergate, Mayfield Valley Arts Trust, the City of York Council and Arts Council England, North.
We hope that you enjoy what follows. If you have archival material to add to our collection, or have a relevant link to be added to this site, please contact us at the National Centre for Early Music.
The Mystery Plays were last performed on wagons by York Guilds around the city on Sundays 13 and 20 July 2014, combining with the York Early Music Festival. The previous large 'static' production was presented in the Museum Gardens in August 2012 by York Theatre Royal and Riding Lights Theatre Company, supported by York Museums Trust and City of York Council. This adaptation of the Plays was scripted by York writer Mike Kenny, with new music by Christopher Madin. A cast list is on the attached page. Over 1,000 local people worked with a professional production team and two professional actors, to create the colourful performances seen by some 32,000 people. Photographs of the rehearsals, taken by local volunteers, are on Flickr.
Next page: What are the Mystery Plays?