Saturday, 4 August
I booked seats on the 9 a.m. train out of Kings Cross, and we were on our way. When I came up with the plan to spend the day in York, I had not known today would be Golden Britain Day at the Olympics. It's hard to believe when I booked the tickets a few weeks ago, a thought had passed through my mind that we might be well sick of London and the Olympics by this weekend and looking forward to a good day away! Instead we had a tinge of regret at leaving the excitement of Olympic London.
Nevertheless, the journey was a reminder of the depth and popularity of performance in this country both in athletics and on stage. The train was packed with young adults on their way to Edinburgh, our train's final destination, for the Edinburgh Fringe's first weekend. Many carried bulging suitcases suggesting they would be there for the month, part of the huge roster of productions which serve as the cultural incubator for future talent. Every young performer (and middle-aged hopeful) "takes their show to the Fringe." The statistics are phenomenal. According to a press report, this year there are 2,695 shows with 23,000 performers, and that number doesn't include the uncounted Free Fringe events, nor the official Edinburgh International Arts Festival, the Edinburgh Book Festival, and the Royal Military Tattoo events that carry on simultaneously. Edinburgh is the place to be in August, and I admit we have never been. Too crowded; too complicated; just too lazy.
Our day in York was delightful. There was enough time to stop into the York Museum, to have lunch in a garden café, to pop into the Minster, then head to the Abbey Gardens for the Mystery Play matinée, and back to the train station for a quick pint of excellent vanilla-damson stout, before boarding our train back to London.
|The choir screen at York Minster with the Kings of England|
|The West Window|
The Mystery Play has been a summer theatre staple in York since 1951 when the Cycle was revived as part of the Festival of Britain's northern England programme. The performances were held on a stage set up in the city park where the ruins of York's medieval St Mary's Benedictine Abbey formed the backdrop. Since 1988, the plays have been performed in the city's Royal Theatre or outdoors using hand carts that move around the city, as the medieval plays were performed, and as we saw them done in 2006. This year, as part of the celebration of the 800th Anniversary of King John granting York a City Charter in 1212, the performance was moved back to the Abbey Gardens with a new script which joins most of the individual tales into a coherent drama of good versus evil.
|The ruins of St Mary's Abbey built in the late 13th c; |
closed and demolished in c. 1539
|The Garden of Eden, Stanley Spencer style|
For Spencer, the Last Judgement would take place in his hometown of Cookham in Berkshire.
|The Resurrection Cookham is in the Tate Britain's collection|
I have very few photos of the production because they requested that no photos be taken during the performance, and I had only taken one before I saw the notice. In the theatre erected for the production, the seating has cover, but the stage does not. During the afternoon, the weather was variable moving from rain, to sun, to clouds, to very hot sun, to an apocalyptic thunder and rainstorm — which began during the Gethsemane betrayal! — that flooded the stage, and shut down the play when the electrical equipment stopped functioning. The soaking wet performers returned after the Deluge, to finish the end of the story. Lots of photo ops were promised for the end, but the soaked players, many wearing plastic ponchos did not make much of a picture. However, the York team have provided a trailer that doesn't miss much.