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Mystery Men

We’re getting very excited about the forthcoming York Mystery plays, being held for the first time since the 1980s on a large-scale in the Museum Gardens. But you might be wondering… just what are the Mystery Plays? No, they’re not an Agatha Christie-style performance of murder and suspicion, but in fact an integral and important part of York’s rich history. Here’s what you need to know… The plays started in 1376 and were intended to perform the stories of the Bible to people who could not read for themselves. Originally the plays were performed on moving wagons that toured around the city. York’s merchant guilds were responsible for producing each play, and it’s from them we get the name; the guilds were known as ‘Mysteries’. By the 16th century the plays went out of fashion, but were reintroduced in 1951. Performances continued every four years with Jesus being portrayed by a well-known actor and local amateurs making up the rest of the large cast. Famous past performers have included Dame Judi Dench, Robson Green, Ray Stephenson and Christopher Timothy. This year will be the first time since 2000 that the plays have been staged on such a large scale. Sir Ben Kingsley’s son, Ferdinand, has been cast in the role of God AND Jesus. No pressure then. n To book your tickets call The York Theatre Royal on 623568 or visit

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Your Local Link Magazine July 2012