We’ve had a whale of a time adapting our choice of 10 of the York Mystery Plays, but as you may know, there are 38 more of them still left to go! Now, we’ve not got the go ahead to start production on any more. But if we were to get hold of some more funding, then these would be the first 6 that we’d choose adapt.
In the 14th Century, people had to be kept in fear of God and this was the classic story that would deter them from committing the sins that would have eroded the social fabric of he Middle Ages. What better way to keep the serfs in line than threatening the punishment of eternal damnation?
Of course, the purpose of the Mystery Plays were not to scare the living Christ out of the audience, but to provide them with a gaudy distraction for a day – so there’s a good chance that the Medieval players would have kept the tone light for this particular play. What could be more theatrical than the end times?
Mortification of Christ
One of the most tragic scenes of Jesus’ story, his mortification and eventual burial are told through 4 separate accounts, from 4 different disciples.
Although modern scholars disagree on the most likely turn out of events, it’s likely that the writers of the Mystery Plays settled on using Mark’s Gospel over the other stories due to the detail it provides in terms of burial rites and action.
Rather worryingly, the Craft Guild of the Butchers were charged with the funding of this particular cart – one can just imagine what kind of special effects work they contributed to the Mortification. We’d probably tone down the gore, but there would be no need to underplay the drama at stake here.
Baptism of Jesus
Considered to be one of the 5 major moments in Christ’s story, Jesus’ baptism is seen by many as the beginning of the Ministry of Jesus. It is the sacred act of baptism, which Gospel writer John performs, that induces a ‘holy spirit’ to descend from the sky ‘like a dove’. This miraculous appearance signals Jesus’ importance and inspires the first two disciples to join the cause.
Besides from being one of the most important events in Christianity, the Baptism of Jesus is packed full of great symbols and moments. The only issue would be finding a way to fully realise a running river on stage – we always love a challenge, though!
Triumphal Entry Into Jerusalem
A classic part of the Easter story, Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, on the back of a donkey, is one of the most iconic sections of his tale. It represents the unabashed love and respect that he was lavished with, by the inhabitants of a city who had to see him in the flesh yet.
Another story that would translate perfectly to the stage, dozens of supporting players could be used for this scene, emphasizing the joy and enthusiasm that greets Jesus upon his entrance. We’re yet to have secured the necessary documents to provide an actual donkey for this conceptual production, but I’m sure we can sort something out with the local pantomime company – sometimes the old ways are the best.
The Last Supper has become one of the most iconic scenes in the Easter Story. Whether it’s due to Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting or the role it played in the best-selling book The Da Vinci Code, it’s hard to deny that it makes for wonderful theatre.
Traditionally the Bakers Guild would sponsor this play – which makes sense, considering the Communion that takes place. It’s the ritual of communion, Jesus’ predictions of the betrayals to come and the nature of this foreshadowing that make this a riveting piece of drama – perfect for the stage. Taking inspiration from da Vinci and staging this scene as an homage to the painting would be a great way to instantly familiarise the audience with the drama at hand.
Massacre of the Innocents
The bawdy Middle-Age audiences loved nothing more than a bit of violence or raunchiness. This story is devoid of that latter but has the former in abundance. For a long time, as is the case with many Bible stories, the story of the mass killing of children under the age of two was seen as gospel. However, biblical scholars (especially biographers of Herod himself) have disputed the historic nature of this abhorrent crime.
Although this may seem like dark territory to stumble into for a fun night out at the theatre, the Massacre of the Innocents would provide the evening with some tonal variation. We visualise setting the scene in a modern day war zone.