A living, breathing reality
On a cold, snowy weekend back in February, some 200 local people from all walks of life gathered at Chester University for the first rehearsal of the 2018 Chester Mystery Plays. Some of them were experienced amateur actors, some of them had performed in previous Mystery Plays, but many of them had never even set foot on a stage before. At that point no one really knew how far we would come in the following four and half months.
We had our blueprints: Deborah McAndrew’s wonderful script, Matt Baker’s magical music and Dawn Allsopp’s astonishing design. But just how these would be transformed into a living, breathing reality remained a huge challenge as the mysterious process of rehearsing began.
Week by week, this dedicated band of shopkeepers, hairdressers, electricians, teachers, NHS workers, civil servants, lawyers, students, carers, chefs, unemployed people and many more have given up their weekends to work on every detail of the script and music to bring it all to life.
And that hard work is about to come to fruition as we welcome audiences into the cathedral for the first performances. Last Saturday the day finally arrived when the company – all 200 of them - walked into the cathedral to see the completed set for the first time. The looks of awe and amazement on their faces were something to behold.
The magnificence of the set and the realisation that the production was about to become a reality created an atmosphere of anticipation and healthy nervousness.
This is a unique event: one of the biggest community plays in the world. It unites men, women and children from all backgrounds and delivers a theatrical spectacle for audiences from across the globe. No-one who participates in it will ever forget the experience, whether they are playing a principal character such as Adam and Eve, Noah, Lucifer or Jesus, or having a tiny but crucial moment as a traveller to Bethlehem or a drowning woman in The Flood.
It’s been a privilege to work alongside such a talented and creative professional team of directors (movement director Cariad Morgan and assistant director Vicki Duckett have been both essential and inspirational), musical directors, designers and production staff.
But the ultimate joy has been to see a vast company of local people take ownership of the production, make it their own and, I sincerely believe, thrill their audiences.