MY wife, my eldest sister and I recently went to the matinee of the Mystery Plays in the Museum Gardens, York.
It rained most of the time, the huge trees behind the stone arches which formed the backdrop to the set rolled and thrashed their heads in the wind, trains clanked past on the East C oast line into York station, ambulance and police sirens wailed in the distance and the city growled and prowled all around.
At one point, a pigeon landed on top of an arch with a long green twig in its beak then flew off – missing its cue as principal dove during the Noah’s Ark sequence. The rain pelted down and the actors wore see through macs over their costumes. It was glorious, it was moving, the people of York involved seemed to contact us with their forbears in the Tradesmen’s Guilds of the original mediaeval productions, and the audience was rapt. Peter was a chunky middle-aged man in painter and decorator white overalls and sandals. The joiners nailing Christ to the cross were jokey, competitive and matter of fact.
As the crowds on stage formed and reformed and laughed and fought and wept (at the Slaughter of the Innocents) and chanted for Christ’s death and gasped at is miracles, I realised how rare it is these days to see a production of such quality by such numbers and how liberating it can be.
The angels wore costumes like Turkish dancers. The first creatures of the earth were made of camouflage netting and wheeled on by star-hatted gardeners; a bear, a huge coiled snake, a camel – it was a delight. At the end Christ delivered his uncompromising judgment of mankind.
We retired to Bettys for coffee and fat rascals, cold damp, but as happy as children, and made replete by three hours of cathartic drama.
Thank you to all concerned.