York Mystery Plays

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Delma Tomlin Personal Folder : Record of interview, 2011, with actor John M Hall

Item type: Delma Tomlin Personal Folder
Archive reference: YMP/O/5/4
Date/year: 2011 and 2013
Description: Archived as YMP/C/6/10.  Notes made during an interview of actor John Hall by Jill Robinson on 12 December 2011.  John still lives in York.  Jill is a local amateur historian, gathering material for an exhibition in 2012 in York Library, to celebrate York 800. The exhibition included panels about the Mystery Plays
First involved in 1988 when it was the last time the Plays were performed in Museum Gardens.
John had been/is involved in amateur dramatics locally; he had become involved with the Phoenix Players (various amateur dramatic groups in York) and from  there got involved with the Mystery Plays.   
In 1988 played Pilate (needed a strong voice). John had to learn to ride a horse (ex-show-jumper, and white).  Nobody was undercover (sic - understudy?).
Two or three performances were cancelled due to weather.  One was cancelled mid-performance when lightning was dancing off the seating gantry, a tree at the Museum Garden entrance and several pigeons were struck by lightning.  The upside of performing outdoors was as it goes dark the lighting takes effect, it becomes atmospheric.
Seasoned members of the audience come with sleeping bags and flasks.  
Steven Pimlott, the Director, went on to work in the  West End.  Victor Banerjee, a professional, was Jesus - a lovely man to work with and looked the part.

In 1992 York Theatre Royal, directed by Ian Forrest.  Robson Green was Jesus.  He was fun to work with.  Both Herods - one present at Jesus' birth and the other at His death - were combined into one role played by John.  The character was a combination of Colonel Gadaffi and Idi Amin.  The atmosphere of the Plays was lost in the theatre but being inside increased the range and scope for the actor.

In 1996 in York Theatre Royal again, director by John Doyle, resident Director there.  Jesus was Rory Mulvihill, an amateur with York Light Opera - he had played Satan in 1992. [Note: Jonathan Mellor, according to the programme].  No professional in the cast.  John played both Herods - a leather-clad psychopath.  

God:  1988 played by a boy
1992: played by Roger Farrington
1996: Ruth Ford
In 1998 John played God on the wagon play of the Last Judgement.
York Minster Millennium production:
The greatest theatrical experience, for John.  Directed by Gregory Doran, Assistant Director at RSC, Stratford.
Being in the Minster added to the 'Wow Factor'.  
Rehearsals held in National Centre for Early Music.  
Voice travels for approximately seven seconds in Minster.  When the base note of the organ sounded at the start of the performance the stage shook and John got goosebumps every night.
Jesus: Ray Stevenson, a professional.
The Minster set was designed with the altar on a platform so services could continue.  
Spiritual experience rather than religious experience.  
John had approx. 2 and a half hours backstage between 'Noah' and 'Armaggedon' scenes.  He used to read Harry Potter to the boys and girls to pass time.  Formed the 'HP Club'. 

Rehearsals [for 2012 Plays] will start in March.  John doesn't find it hard to learn lines.  Can still remember the opening lines he spoke as God.  He played King Lear at college aged 21.   There is no prompting at all - it makes sure you are self sufficient.
2012: Two professionals to play God and Satan, planning to have two casts - the first time John will have been involved with two casts, if it has happened before.
[Note:  John does not appear in the 2012 programme].  

The director selects which plays he wants.  He may make modifications to the language (if any).  It is in 'Olde English'.  Some of the language is 'tweaked', then is credited as 'adapted by'.  The director appoints the designer and the musical director.  From  the designer come ideas for costumes and sets.  
It was a very unique thing (2000 Play) and a spiritual experience.  

Jill Robinson's manuscript notes typed up by Margaret Scott 3 September 2013.

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