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Creative thoughts from Directors on the Mystery Plays 2012

Paul Burbridge and Damian Cruden, the Artistic Directors of York Mystery Plays 2012, discuss the decision to set the production in the 1950s:

The Mystery Plays always encourage debate, from the casting to the staging and the setting. Over the years, the Mystery Plays have been told in a wide variety of different ways. The 2012 production is to be set in the post-war (1950s) era, Paul Burbridge, Co-Artistic Director, explains the thinking:

“The 2012 production sits as the jewel in the crown of the York 800 celebrations. The York Mystery Plays are arguably the most important artistic event to come from our city in that period – of ‘worldwide and worldclass’ significance. Within 800 years, there are three crucial dates: the time when the Mystery Plays began (late 1300s), the time when they were suppressed (1560s) and the moment when the York Mystery Plays tradition was restarted for the modern era in 1951 at the Festival of Britain. That 20th Century revival is a hugely significant moment within the past 800 years of York’s history. It was a period of post-second world war hope and new life after terrifying global destruction which resonates hugely with the biblical story.

The intention of the Mystery Plays was always to make the biblical story accessible to a contemporary audience within the city. The language was ‘now’ for the mediaeval renaissance audiences and the costume and setting would also have been ‘now’. What was uppermost in the minds of the mediaeval Mystery Play producers was the desire to make the biblical story speak to their contemporary community in a way that helped each member of the audience to see themselves within the biblical story. Our intention with the 2012 production from the very start, with script adaptor Mike Kenny, has been to follow that tradition for our own community – to tell the story in a way which connects with people now and demonstrates that it is an exciting, relevant story to tell in any age.

The biblical story and the Mystery Play texts are both ancient and modern – they live in every generation because they speak about events inside and outside time within the cosmos, about issues which are always contemporary. To view them in any sense as a ‘museum piece’ carefully preserved from the 14th/15th Centuries is to obscure their real purpose.”


You can find out more about this years massive project at the York Mystery Plays 2012 website.

Or you can read up on some of the history of previous productions on the Mystery Plays Archive.