A New Chorus – by Artistic Director Deborah Pakkar Hull

A step into the unknown…

This year we are venturing into the unknown by including a chorus as a part of the production.  Whilst precedents for a fully-fledged chorus do not exist within the York Mystery Plays, they do within the Chester and N-Town cycles.  York’s more modest chorus claim to fame could be said to come in the form of a brief aside to the audience at the end of The Supper at Emmaus where the impending approach of the next wagon is referred to…as is the need to hurry up!

So why add a chorus?

The artistic identity of the wagon plays are strongly characterised by a patchwork of creative ideas, interpretations and styles brought forward by different participating groups and guilds. This year we wanted to continue to celebrate such a tradition of diversity, but within the context of a strongly unified production.

Enter the chorus!

Framing and connecting the production, the chorus will act as a conduit between plays, players and audience – bridging the gaps, inviting interpretation and providing a new narrative dimension – all with the wider purpose of drawing the audience into a close and meaningful relationship with the action.   However, the use of the term chorus is perhaps a little misleading – far from involving a cast of thousands, this chorus will be made up of three actors located at each of the four playing stations, who will appear at key moments during the production, rather than before and after each play.  Theirs will be a contemporary voice but inflected with the rhythms of the plays’ verse forms.  They will be a kind of ‘everyman’, poised between our world and the medieval origins of the plays.

Where things are now?

We are at a very exciting stage of development! After a selection process that involved acclaimed writer Mike Kenny, we have commissioned local writer Ged Cooper to script the chorus.  Ged has a long association with the Mystery Plays having previously directed a waggon play herself.  She also had her modern mystery play Fields of Gold performed as a part of the 2012 production in Museum Gardens.  We have also appointed Ruby Clarke to be the Chorus Director – Ruby has previously directed two modern mystery plays to accompany the 2012 production…one of which was Ged’s!  She was also the Artistic Director of TakeOver 2013 at York Theatre Royal – a young person-led festival – and directed The Mercy Seat in the Studio there.

Now the work of bringing the chorus to life really begins – Ged is busy writing and Ruby will soon turn her mind to casting.  If you are interested in being involved, keep your eyes on this website where opportunities to audition or contribute to the chorus will be shared.

The ‘unknown’ is certainly starting to look interesting!