Over 2500 people to help stage YORK MYSTERY PLAYS 2012




The York Mystery Plays, a medieval cycle of plays which have been performed by the people of York for hundreds of years, will return to the city this year on an epic scale from 2 to 27 August with press night on 8 August at 7.30pm.  Rehearsals begin next week for the production which is set against the magnificent backdrop of the St Mary’s Abbey. Damian Cruden’s production is adapted by Mike Kenny, reuniting the team that brought the Olivier award-wining The Railway Children to life at Waterloo Station. Cruden is joined by Paul Burbridge as joint Artistic Director of the 2012 York Mystery Plays. 

As well as a cast of professional actors (yet to be announced), over 2,500 people will be involved in the staging of this production including over 1,500 local volunteers as the two casts of community ensemble, musicians, choir and crew. 

Telling the story of the cosmic battle between good and evil, from creation to the last judgement, the York Mystery Plays have been performed by the people of York for more than 800 years and are a world-famous part of the city’s cultural heritage. 

The stage for this production will be 357 square metres. 3,250 individual items of costume will be used at each performance, having used over 2,300 meters of thread to make them. 1,400 metres of cabling - from the ground to the top of York Minster 19 times – will be used3,000 items have been borrowed from top hats to sewing machines and to date 1,500 volunteers have been enlisted who would fill 17 double decker buses. 

The York Mystery Plays are produced by York Theatre Royal, Riding Lights Theatre Company and York Museums Trust and supported by City of York Council.

Damian Cruden has been Artistic Director of York Theatre Royal for the past fourteen years where he has directed many productions including, Laurel and Hardy, 40 Years On, Peter Pan, My Family and Other Animals, The Railway Children, which also had two successful runs at the Waterloo Station Theatre, The Wind on the Willows and The Homecoming . He has also co-directed the last thirteen York Theatre Royal pantomimes with Berwick Kaler. Previously he worked for various regional theatres as a freelance director including The Tron and TAG.  He was Associate Director for Hull Truck in the early ‘90s and prior to that Co-Artistic Director of the Liverpool Everyman Youth Theatre. 

Mike Kenny specialises in young people’s theatre and has written and adapted numerous plays including The Railway Children which was seen at the National Railway Museum and Waterloo Station Theatre, Scarecrow (AJTC), Wind in the Willows for the York Theatre Royal, Aladdin and Jack and the Beanstalk both for the West Yorkshire Playhouse.  Further credits include Wild Dreams for Theatre du Rond-Point, Paris, Twin Stars for the Unicorn Theatre, La Nuit Electrique (Electric Darkness) for Comedie de Valence, France, Who Cares?  for Region Theatre, Vaxjo, Sweden and Whiter than Snow for Graeae Theatre.

Paul Burbridge is Artistic Director of York-based Riding Lights Theatre Company and has been involved as actor, director or writer in all the Company’s major productions including the world premiere of Augustus Carp Esq., and recent successful national tours of Origins & Lemons, The Narrow Road, Dario Fo’s Mistero Buffo and The Winter’s Tale.  In a co-production with York Theatre Royal, he directed African Snow, a new play to mark the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade, the show toured nationally before a run at London’s Trafalgar Studios.   Burbridge has directed many community cast productions, including Dogg’s Hamlet/Cahoot’s Macbeth, An Experiment with an Air Pump, Dr Faustus, Measure for Measure, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui and Accidental Death of an Anarchist.

Dame Judi Dench, who has performed in the plays three times and is a Patron of the plays for 2012,  has said “Having performed in the York Mystery Plays three times, I know the excitement that these events bring to the people of York and the important place they hold within the city’s history. When I heard the Mystery Plays were returning to York Museum Gardens and the scale and ambition which York Theatre Royal, Riding Lights Theatre Company and York Museums Trust have for this production, I was honoured to be asked to become patron. I urge you to get involved with the York Mystery Plays 2012 and experience the magic of creating theatre with your own community. It is something I will always remember. “

Playwright Mike Kenny has said: “York Mystery Cycle is an extraordinary phenomenon. Almost as old as the Minster and a precious artefact of British theatre history, but something which you don't have to be careful not to drop or scratch. It is as living as it once was. You can hear in it the Yorkshire voices which once spoke it and refashion it for a new generation to speak again. Its creators are unknown but its owners are those of us, past, present and future who live and work in the city. It's a pleasure and an honour to be entrusted with producing a new script for 2012.”

Joint Artistic Directors for the 2012 production, Paul Burbridge (Riding Lights) and Damian Cruden (York Theatre Royal) have said in a joint statement: “Our vision is to create a bold, exhilarating piece of story-telling theatre on an operatic scale. To re-invigorate the tradition and the language and make these plays accessible to a modern audience.  We want to stage the Mystery Plays in a way that resonates with both past and present and appeals to those of religious faith or none. “
It is a production by York Cultural Company.

HRH the Duke of York, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu and BBC Look North’s Harry Gration are also confirmed patrons of the plays.


Theatre:                           St Mary’s Abbey, York Museum Gardens, York
Dates:                              2 - 27 August 2012
Press Night:                     8 August at 7.30pm
Performances:                 Tuesday - Sunday at 7.30pm
                                        Saturday at 2.30pm
Prices:                              £12 to £42
Box Office:                      01904 623568