Mystery Plays would have been well-known in the mediaeval period, and were used as a way of teaching famous biblical tales in a fun, entertaining and accessible way. Real stories, about real people, but brought to life for a contemporary crowd.
The venue was small, but suitable - dimly lit, the underground caverns of St Vincent’s Undercroft evoking something of the historicity and spirituality that the performance would try to mirror. It actually covered five key stories - Noah, the Shepherds, the Flight into Egypt, the final events at Jerusalem, and Christ’s Resurrection.
Peter Holloway’s reimagining of these stories for our own time has been wonderfully done. One of the things that strikes you as most impressive is how faithful his rendering is to the original biblical text. And yet there were some inspired additions and embellishments – the ‘reporter’ in the latter scenes narrating the biblical drama in a rolling-news type of way. At other points, and thinking of another modern remaking, it conjured up connotations with the 1961 version of West Side Story.
The ‘Flight’ additionally invited us to make obvious connections to the plight of refugees today, and this was enhanced by the inclusion of helicopter sound effects - an ingenious linking between the old and the new. It made us question where the actual qualitative difference lay, and if priorities have actually changed over time.
It was a bit unfortunate that the final resurrection scene seemed (ironically) anti-climactic, the show almost seeming to fizzle out at the end. However - equally clear - was the huge amount of preparation, hard work and commitment involved. It initially ran the risk of coming across as an end-of-term Revue - but crucially it made us think, and ask a number of relevant questions.
Speaking to the Director afterwards, it was fascinating to learn that the cast didn’t actually know each other three weeks ago – they’d been brought together specifically for this project, and this was an excellent illustration of collaborative teamwork. Faith spoke about the joy of watching the youngsters grow, and giving them the opportunity to experience the energy of the Fringe.
The performance finished at 7.55pm.
The Mysteries - Reimagined, Sunday 13th August, 7.00pm, St Vincent’s Chapel