Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Chester Literature Festival: Chester Mystery Play Reading.

Yes, it's that time of year again: October  - so it must be the Chester Literature Festival.

I went to my first event tonight - a reading of the Chester Mystery Play which will be performed next year.  Usually these are performed in the open air - which is always a bit of a gamble even in high summer.  But next year, for the first time ever, the Mystery Play is going to be performed in the nave of the cathedral.

There was a model of the proposed set on display, and the cathedral curate warned us that we were not to touch it (she having made that mistake).  It was a sweet little thing, with tiny pieces of furniture rather like a doll's house, but when I asked if it would be okay if I took a picture the set designer wasn't willing, so that, dear blog reader, will have to be left to the imagination.  

Before I went into the refectory (where tonight's reading was being held) I had the chance to take a few pictures of the cathedral passageways looking suitably atmospheric in the dark.  As well as having the main performance in the nave there will also be segments in spaces such as this, as well as in the streets.

Judging from the reading, the play (written by Stephanie Dale) is going to be a powerful fusion of the ancient and the modern - and I was especially impressed with the proposed take on the slaughter of the innocents.  In fact it stunned the audience into an appreciative silence.  The readers were all very good, and I was surprised to learn that apart from being able to read through the script for a couple of weeks, they had only had one other rehearsal.

The Mystery Plays have a distinguished history.  Until Elizabeth  the First's times they were regularly performed, but then were deemed to be too popish.  They were revived in 1951 and from then on have been performed in five year cycles.  This time round the Artistic Director is Peter Leslie Wild and the music is provided by the talented Matt Baker (who is a bit of a legend round these parts).  They involve the whole community and everyone is encouraged to go along to rehearsals.  I am tempted - but only as an extra.  My acting abilities are sadly limited and I'd be apt to trip over any long costumes.


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