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2002 November - The York Mystery Plays at St Clement Eastcheap


Plays and people  |  Photographs  |  About the show

In the annual Proclamation that used to announce these plays in the streets of York in medieval times it was stated “...that all manner of craftmen that bringeth furthe ther pageantez in order and course by good players and openly spekying...”

The plays were a great celebratory feature of every English city’s life in those times. The city guilds who organised and performed the plays for their fellow citizens were expected to put on a good show for the honour of their city and their particular trade or “mystery”.

The Players of St Peter seek to uphold this tradition by maintaining and portraying the full richness of these plays – their language, characters, humour, movement and meaning – for this century.

We begin this year with a short prologue from the Fall of Angels play to establish the characters of God and Lucifer, the creator and the rebel who will stir humankind to action.

The two Noah plays follow in their entirety. The Shipwrights’ Play of the Building of the Ark portrays God as the master craftsman teaching Noah survival techniques for humanity by creating an ark that will contain his family and all the animals.

The Fishers’ and Mariners’ Play of the Flood shows the disaster that overtakes Noah’s neighbours and tackles deep universal questions about survival guilt, the purpose of the circle of creation and destruction and the wisdom of hope for the future.

Lucifer receives all humanity in hell at death until God decides to send his Son to become man and give people a route back to God after death. So we lead on to the Christmas story in which Mary and Joseph accept their role in receiving and caring for Christ. The three characterful shepherds of the Chandlers’ play come to offer their gifts, two at least hoping for a reward!

Lucifer’s scene from the Smiths’ Play of the Temptation is a prelude to the Masons’ and Goldsmiths’ plays, which contrast the proud politician Herod and his sinister cohorts with the three wise kings who journey to find Christ the newborn king.

We end with an Epilogue of Adoration taken from a range of speeches in the York text to represent the welcome of each character group to the Christ child at his birth.