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York: excitement building for biggest ever Mystery Plays

The transformation of the magnificent Nave of York’s famous Minster into a 1,000-seater theatre is well underway ahead of the return of the epic York Mystery Plays ...

The transformation of the magnificent Nave of York’s famous Minster into a 1,000-seater theatre is well underway ahead of the return of the epic York Mystery Plays, which open in just over two weeks.
The bespoke build involves erecting more than 30 tonnes of steel scaffolding, including 10 lighting columns towering up to 14 metres high.

Some 900 square metres of decking have been used in the scaffolding structure to create the foundations for the raked seating and enormous stage where the actors will act out the greatest story ever told – from the creation of heaven and earth to the last judgement.
Seats have been added and sound and lighting are being installed before the scene painting begins and hundreds of props, including animals for the Ark, wings for the Angels and sea creatures for the Creation scenes are moved over from the workshops where they have been brought to life over the past few weeks.

There has been plenty more going on behind the scenes with portable toilets to arrange, ice-cream to be ordered, stewards to be trained and make-up to be tested.
It’s the first time in 16 years and only the second time in their near 700-year history that the Mystery Plays have been performed at York Minster, following sell-out performances in 2000.
The plays, which open in accordance with tradition on the feast day of Corpus Christi on 26 May, and run to 30 June, feature lead actor Philip McGinley playing the role of Jesus. Philip, who was born in Lancashire, is best known for his roles as archer Anguy in HBO series Game of Thrones and as Tom Kerrigan in Coronation Street.

Alongside Philip will be hundreds of members of the Yorkshire community involved as cast members and as Mystery Makers working on everything from prop and costume making to stage building and make-up.
The 2016 production has been developed by an award-winning artistic team, including director Phillip Breen, of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and writer Mike Poulton, who recently wrote the scripts for the RSC’s productions of Hilary Mantel’s global best-selling novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. The set, costumes and props have been designed by Theatre Designer Max Jones, whose many accolades including winning the Linbury Biennial Prize for Stage Design.
Nicola Corp, Producer of the York Minster Mystery Plays, commented: “It’s been a Yorkshire-wide community effort to bring these epic plays to fruition with volunteers from throughout the region featuring in the cast and busy working behind the scenes.

"It is wonderful to see this hard work from both volunteers and professionals coming together for what will be spectacular show within the dramatic setting of York Minster. It’s absolutely the must-see event in York this Summer.”
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Tickets can be purchased online at, by calling 01904 623568 or in person from the York Theatre Royal’s Box Office at the De Grey Rooms in St Leonards Place, York, and at York Minster’s visitor admission desks.

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