York Mystery Plays

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Press Cuttings : 1951 Press Cuttings and earlier

Item type: Press Cuttings
Archive reference: YMP/F/1
Date/year: 1949-1951
Description: Press cuttings about the 1951 Mystery Play production are filed as YMP/F/1.  This was the year of the Festival of Britain and the first revival of the Plays in York since 1570.  See below for a scanned Daily Mail item of 4 June 1951.
The NCEM also has some cuttings from before 1951, donated by Mrs Mary Thomson, widow of Keith Thomson, Artistic Director of that first Festival.  They are filed under YMP/F/1/1.  Hans Hess, director of the Art Gallery, was the Assistant Festival Director.
-Northern Echo 29 April 1949, York plans for biggest event of the century
-Yorkshire Evening Herald 29 April 1949, York Festival of Arts Plans, will be hosts to the world.  Festival to be a careful mixture of 'grave and gay'.  Because the Arts Council could not give money to Local Authorities, the organisation had to be done by 'York Festival Society Ltd' - 12 members of the Council with six other members.   City of York Council was to guarantee up to £6000.
-Yorkshire Post 16 July 1949, lavish York Plans for 1951 Festival- speech at the Mansion House
-Yorkshire Evening Press 16 July 1949, Plans for outstanding York Festival, York's part will be the most outstanding of all the 12 provincial cities playing their part in the international 'attract the tourists' campaign.  Provisional plans for the festival included Music in York Minster, 16th and 17th century music in the Merchant Adventurer's Hall, historical pageant in Museum Gardens, a world premier of a new play at the Theatre Royal, art masterpieces at the Art Gallery, dancing afloat the River Ouse, a military tattoo at Knavesmire, city floodlighting, a firework display, a Yorkshire Gala at Bootham, band concerts in te parks, and exhibition of transport at the station, a Georgian Ball in the Assembly Rooms, and an architectural competition for blocks of flats in Fishergate/Paragon Street, and Castlegate.
-Yorkshire Evening Press 16 July 1949 'Our opinion - Historic year'  comment on Mansion House speech
- Northern Echo 22 December 1949,  York must rise to the occasion for festival - speech at Archbishop Holgate's grammar school by Keith Thomson, Artistic Director
- Yorkshire Evening Press 1 October 1949, 'York's History Book for 1951 Festival' - the decision to perform the open-air re-enactment of the York Cycle of Mystery Plays has now been taken.  [but] The site for the performance has not yet been selected.
- Yorkshire Evening Press 24 December 1949, page 1 'Host to world in great 1951 Festival of Britain - Brilliance is main theme' Page 2 'Every item must pay for itself' - 'The Mystery Plays will be performed against the background of the St Mary's Abbey .... a cast of about 300 with 100 speaking parts
- Yorkshire Evening Press 28 December 1949, 'The World must know' - comment column applauding the plans
- Yorkshire Gazette 30 December 1949, 'When the world comes visiting in 1951 - York's provisional programme for Festival of the Arts'.  Back of cutting has picture of Princess Elizabeth visiting Acomb. 
- Yorkshire Evening Post 24 December 1949, 'York plans a festival of Pageantry and Pomp - £30,000 of plays and concerts'.....   Mr Thomson is convinced that the most outstanding event of the fortnight will be the 15 performances of the cycle of religious plays.. these used to be performed in the city over 400 years ago. ....Special care is being taken to ensure that the costumes will be authentic in every detail.  Mr Thomson hopes the actors will agree to change in their homes and make their way to the theatre in their costumes just as the players did in the 14th and 15th centuries'…. The part of Christ will be played by a professional actor, who will remain anonymous.
- Yorkshire Post 26 May 1950, 'York Medieval Plays of world importance'
- Northern Echo 14 September 1950 'York tells world of its plan for the Festival.  Music and drama will play leading roles'
- Yorkshire Evening Press 24 January 1951, 'He directs York's big Festival plans'
- Yorkshire Evening Press 30 April 1951, 'The York Mystery plays' with photograph of Mary Ure and Leonard Pickering as Mary and Joseph with Keith Thomson and E Martin Browne
- Yorkshire Gazette 8 June 1951, photographs of royalty, Prime Minister Clement Attlee and York politicians and their wives at the Minster.  
     Over the page: 'The powerful appeal of the mystery plays: outstanding feature free from sophistication.  After watching the opening performance of the York Cycle of Mystery Plays - publicly presented on Sunday night [3 June 1951] for the first time for nearly 400 years, to an audience which included the PM and Mrs Attlee, the civic heads, the city's MP and robed representatives of the craft guilds, with whom the Plays had their beginnings - it is not difficult to understand their powerful appeal to the original medieval audiences.  Oberammergau came from a desire to show thankfulness at the village's relief from plague: the York Cycle was the dawning of secular drama in this country.  It is much wider in scope than its European counterpart, for its theme is the whole story of man and his redemption, from Adam and Eve to Judgement Day.  Hallowed Charm..... Lazarus in his strange habiliments and the scourging of Christ followed by the crucifixion.  The brutality is clearly defined, even terrifying, and the tableau on the Cross is greatly moving.  So many actors pass through the scenes that only a few may be mentioned.  The anonymous actor who plays the part of Jesus Christ stands out, as he should.  Here there has been a perfect choice.  He has a manly presence and contains himself through everything with a fitting quiet dignity.  The deep warmth of his voice helps considerably to put the realistic aspect to the sequences.  John van Eyssen's Lucifer is a magnificent creation and there is a simple dewy quality about Mary Ure which adequately fits the simplicity of the Virgin Mary.  Leonard Pickering's Joseph is cast in a sensitive mould.  The Pilate of Alec de Little is forceful and well spoken and the fine diction of David Giles as the Archangel Gabriel cannot be overlooked.  No more can the diction of the unknown actor who plays God the Father.  Another impressive part of the performance is the special music, directed by Allan Wicks, deputy Minster organist, and written by Mr James Brown of Leeds University.
-Yorkshire Post 18 June 1951 'York's Festival Triumph - a fortnight of imperishable memories' - question remains - Will the Mystery Plays be allowed to return to the dust which covered them for four centuries?'  They did not need to draw on the £12,000 guaranteed by the Arts Council and York Corporation...  Large crowd which waited every evening to see the proclamation of the Mystery Plays by a mounted herald with attendant halbardiers
-Yorkshire Evening Press 18 June 1951 'Planner Views his Triumph' - only part - cutting is torn.

1950 Festival Advance Leaflet


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