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York: Mystery Plays open to great reviews

The York Minster Mystery Plays have opened to excellent critical acclaim, including a 4 star review from The Guardian ...

The York Minster Mystery Plays have opened to excellent critical acclaim, including a 4 star review from The Guardian, with the audience and theatre reviewers praising everything from the actors and costumes to the stunning set, music and lighting.

The Mystery Plays opened last Thursday on the feast of Corpus Christi and tell the greatest story ever told – of good versus evil, life and death and love, betrayal, hope and loss.

Staged in the Minster for only the second time in 700 years, the plays are etched into the very fabric of the cathedral including the beautiful stained glass of the East Window and the intricate carvings and stone. This is a unique opportunity to see these extraordinary plays brought to life against the historic backdrop of the Minster, transformed into a breathtaking 1,000-seater theatre.

The talented community cast of more than 150 actors from right across the region is led by one paid professional actor, Philip McGinley, playing the role of Jesus. The epic stage and set design, costumes and make-up have all been developed by an award-winning production team; 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 are the vision of Theatre Designer Max Jones, whose many accolades including winning the Linbury Biennial Prize for Stage Design.

The critic’s comments:

“Four out of Five stars” The Guardian

“Beautifully breathtaking moments”, Sarah Freeman, Yorkshire Post

“A production of memorable spectacle” Mark Smith, British Theatre Guide

 “Magnificently staged” and a “thing of beauty and wonder throughout” Charles Hutchinson, York Press

“The ambitious staging is awe-inspiring and imbues the story from the start with exactly what it requires: a sense of scale and wonder… It’s truly a marvellous, wondrous piece of theatre” Miles Watts, One and Other

Here’s a taste of the audience reaction to the plays, taken from social media channels:

“Amazing, beautiful, emotional performance #mysteryplays York last night. Made even more special by the location @York_Minster”

“Epic, spectacular production, needs seeing.”

“Wonderful experience today at Mystery Plays @York_Minster - if you can possibly go, go! Staging, costumes awesome.”

“@York_Minster we went on the first night truly amazing!!! Beautiful music fantastic costumes brilliant acting kept us captivated to the end.”

“How truly glorious #MysteryPlays were! Really made @York_Minster come alive. A huge well done to all the cast!”

“The @Yorkmysteryplay was fantastic - actors, costumes, set, lighting, music all spectacular. Brilliant @York_Minster”

“Congratulations to all involved with the Mystery Plays. Absolutely brilliant performance last night. If you haven't got tickets, try and get some. A gem of a performance.”

Vivienne Faull, Dean of York Minster, commented: “We’re really proud of these fantastic reviews and being able to share these epic stories that are such an integral part of our history with the York community and visitors to our wonderful city.

"This success is thanks to amazing team work and the community pulling together to support each other, backed up by an enormously talented production team. We hope audiences will enjoy the show and will leave personally inspired by the stories and setting of York Minster.”

The plays run until 30 June and there are just four weeks left to view this once-in-a generation spectacular. Tickets are available 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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