Lincoln Mystery Plays 2008
Southwell Minster 10-12 July
Lincoln Cathedral 18-26 July
One of the key concepts underpinning my interpretation will be that of ‘community’. The intention is to establish a fictional community of Lincoln crafts folk and Guild members, all of whom will be individually identifiable throughout the evening. The audience will be able to recognise the Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker, et al, as they set up their scenes, adopt roles within their particular plays and give support to each play in the cycle.
The plays grew out of a particular community, a community which, like our own, was in a process of change. The plays were seen as an opportunity for working people to challenge, as well as celebrate, the pervading culture of their time. The challenge for the 2008 company is give the plays a resonance and meaning which will make connections for a contemporary audience. It is my intention to base the interpretation upon the kinds of principles that one can assume were at the heart of the original productions.
My belief is that these performances thrived within Medieval society because of significant community needs. The plays provided an ideal opportunity for:
• Religious and spiritual fulfilment
• Social celebration
And, as is the case with all theatre,
• An opportunity to raise questions and challenges within the performance of a powerful story.
The plays will be performed in conventional format and in the recognised order. Each play will be performed by a specific Guild, and the nature of that Guild will be evident in the performance. The following are offered as examples only:
The Gardeners will present The Creation The Apothecaries will present Lazarus The Brewers will present The Trial of Mary and Joseph The Bakers Guild will present The Last Supper
There will be a presentation of each play in this production; some will be concise, others performed in their entirety. I want the audience to have a sense of the magnitude of the events being depicted, whilst at the same time creating a brisk and energetic production.
The music is to be an integral dimension of the production. It will be based upon Lincolnshire Folk Song, with the musicians clearly visible and often taking part in the dramatic action. Although a lot of the music is being prepared , in terms of composing, adapting and scoring, there will be much that is improvisational and created as a response within the rehearsal process.
Liam Robinson is to be The Musical Director, with Frank Kelly, Lesley Clark and Tim Walker already committed to taking part in the production.
The interpretation will be supported by the design of the lighting, music, sound, setting, costumes and props. Texture, colour, shape and material will reflect both the genre of each play, as well as the fictitious Craft-Guild that has been selected to perform it.
David Dray has already begun work on the staging and Lighting and Jess Farmer and Laura Hill intend to have the design work completed by Christmas.
The Guilds that might be represented [although this will require some research] are:
Bakers, Brewers, Stone Masons, Weavers, Cloth makers, Dyers, Apothecaries, Cobblers, Blacksmiths, Potters, Millers, Goldsmiths, Wheelwrights, Gardeners, Carpenters, Merchants, Candle Makers and Sowers.
A further aim is to create a large scale ensemble company, with the cast involved in changing the settings and scenes, in their roles as local craft folk. This will, I hope, facilitate a sense of involvement and ownership amongst everyone involved.
The evening of each performance will begin with a Medieval Fayre, outside The Cathedral and Minster. This will involve people making things, eating, drinking, juggling, entertaining, etc.
The band will then strike up, the audience will be gathered together, they will be led into the performance area and………..The 2008 production will begin!
Geoff Readman Artistic Director, 2008
An article published in 2015 in conversation with Geoff Readman (click here)
Lincoln Mysteries bring a tear to the eye
CELEBRATING the 30th year of the rebirth of the mystery plays in Lincoln, this year’s production has taken the plays back to the medieval origins of various craft guilds presenting a different biblical story.
For those not experienced with viewing mystery plays, such as myself, the long list of individual plays found in the programme could be off-putting, but the wonderful delivery in the beautiful setting of Lincoln Cathedral cloisters meant time passed un-noticed.
The contemporary music, under the direction of Liam Robinson, brought an added dimension, helping the audience truly believe they had stepped back in time.
Every member of the large cast worked together to deliver the true spirit of the plays, presenting stories from the Bible to the community, and the chiming of the cathedral clock, interspersed with contributions from the resident falcons added to the astounding atmosphere.
The satannical triumvitrate of Aggi Gunstone, Jo Hollingworth and Janet Smith stole the show, reinforcing the notion that the devil obtains all the best tunes. It was a directional stroke of inspiration to have three actors simultaneously playing Lucifer, an antithesis to the trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Herod played by Rasen Mail editor Jason Hippisley was regarded as ‘not half bad’ either!
It was also a somewhat controversial break with tradition to have God played by a woman, but Ruth Andrews rose to the challenge and was the perfect balance to the ‘evil’ of the plays.
Jesus, played by Kevin Troughton, seemed genuinely world weary and we truly believed he carried the sins of the world upon his shoulders. The Crucifixion was executed brilliantly and, with daylight fading, the effective lighting and intense acting brought the scene to a dramatic climax.
Both actresses playing Mary convinced us that she was the mother of God. Josie Bruce, the young Mary, in a beautifully enacted birth scene, exuded true happiness and the older Mary present at the death of her son, portrayed by Ba Wheeler, showed great emotional depth. Looking around the audience, I wasn’t the only one to reach for the tissues as Mary cradled her dead son.
Aspects of the plays will live with me for a long time. Director Geoff Readman, and indeed everyone involved in the plays, must be congratulated in bringing a truly awe-inspiring production together.
Review by Dianne Tuckett, Market Rasen Mail 28.7.08
a miller playing God
a dyer playing Young Mary
a mason, playing Shepherd 1 & Peter
a goldsmith playing King 2 & Priest 1
a silversmith playing Adam & Judas
a merchant playing Satan
a goldsmith playing King 1, Consoler & Disciple
a butcher playing Tiffany Twinker, Herod 1, Disciple, Joseph of Arimathea
a merchant playing Satan
a weaver playing Fair Mabel, Zelomy, Woman 2, Disciple & Woman 1
an apothecary playing Bishop, Lazarus, Torturer 1 & Crucifier 1
a gardener playing Good Angel, Lettice Little Trust, Salome & Woman
a gardener playing Good Angel, Ruth, Nicodemus & Woman
a weaver playing Bad Angel,Tom Tinker, Shepherd 4, Disciple & Crucifier 2
a goldsmith playing Beatrice Bell, King 3, Disciple & Woman 2
a tanner playing Be Summoner, Mourner, Disciple & Pilate
a silversmith playing Shepherd 3, Soldier & Herod 2
an apothecary playing Raise Slander & Martha
a butcher playing Bartholemew the Butcher, Soldier & John
a mason playing Eve, Katie Kell & Woman 3
a butcher playing Sim Summoner, Death, Disciple & Barabas
a tanner playing Shepherd 2, John the Baptist & Caiaphas
a merchant playing Satan
a silversmith playing Gabriel & Annas
a carpenter playing Joseph, Priest 2, a soldier & Torturer 2
a gardener playing Good Angel & Pilate’s wife
a weaver playing Holy Ghost & Disciple
an apothecary playing Backbiter & Magdalene
a miller playing Jesus
a tanner playing Steven Sturdy, Steward, Disciple, & Crucifier 5
a mason playing Bad Angel, CockCrane & Crucifier 4
a carpenter playing Dame, Kit Crackler & Crucifier 3
a musician playing a Soldier
a miller playing Bad Angel, Malkin Milk Duck & Older Mary
at Southwell:The Nottinghamshire County Youth Theatre Company led by Jeremy Cort and Zoe Armitage
At Southwell: Su Dobson, Laura Field, Doreen Burton, Upstage accompanied by The recorder Group, The Pilgrims from the National Trust Workhouse & The Students of Minster School
At Lincoln: The Lincoln Madrigal Singers, Bishop Grosseteste Drama-in-the-Community Student Group, Organised by Karen Dainty
Musical Director Liam Robinson
Frank Kelly, Lesley Clark, Chris Barlow, Tim Walker & Allister Garrod
Stage management and props
Graphics & Photography
Front of House
Jessica Kemp and Laura Hill
Jessica Kemp, Laura Hill, Roz Mellows, Anne Readman, Pat Shirley, Cynthia Chapman, Rosemarie Gunstone & members of the Cast
Gail Dennis and Rosa Gunstone
Rosemarie Gunstone and her team