Actors, singers and musicians from across the North West are invited to audition for one of the region’s biggest community productions, which will be performed in the nave of Chester Cathedral next summer.
The Chester Mystery Plays are only performed in the city every five years and director Peter Leslie Wild, writer Deborah McAndrew and musical director Matt Baker are looking for a community cast to tell the well-known stories from the Bible which include the Creation, Noah’s Flood, the Nativity and The Crucifixion.
Speaking at the official launch of the Chester Mystery Plays 2018 at Chester Cathedral on Tuesday, October 3, Peter said: “We are looking for community actors to play parts including God, Noah, Eve and Mary as well as an ensemble of shepherds, angels, devils and animals.
“There is a part for everyone in Deborah McAndrew’s exciting new script and whoever turns up to the auditions will be given a role to play in this unique Chester production.
“If 500 people turn up, there will be 500 people in the cast! No one will be turned away. The opportunity to play your part in the mystery plays is a fantastic opportunity which comes around only once every five years. You will not only get to work with a fabulous script by an award-winning writer and a professional artistic team but you will also get to make friends for life.”
Chairman of Chester Mystery Plays Jo Sykes welcomed more than 300 people to the nave of Chester Cathedral before inviting Lord Mayor of Chester Cllr Razia Daniels to officially launch the 2018 cycle.
Jo said: “It’s good to see so many people here this evening. It makes all the years of planning and fundraising worthwhile and once again it has been years, four to be exact. We began the planning process at the end of 2013 by confirming the dates for 2018 with the cathedral and here we are now, ready to roll!”
Guests were welcomed to the cathedral by vice dean Reverend Dr Barry Wilson and President of the Freemen and Guilds of Chester David Starbuck Edwards talked of the historical connection of the guilds and the mystery plays.
Peter then introduced the artistic team and writer Deborah McAndrew explained how she has taken the texts of the individual 25 medieval Chester plays and incorporated them into one big story for the 2018 production.
She said: “In approaching this task I looked at the original plays in the context of the year 2018. I asked myself, what’s important to us in our world that is expressed in the plays. Two things jumped out at me: Conflict and Nature - and I held those themes in my mind as I worked. I also wanted to present the plays with a sense of wholeness; as one big story with episodes leading to a climactic finish.”
Former mystery play actors Nick Fry, Jennifer Jackson, Chloe Knight and Nick Sherratt then shared excerpts from Deborah’s new script accompanied by singers Sarra Cooper and Paul Williams, musicians Helen Reti-Armstrong, Mike Riley and Danielle Morris and Karamba Samba.
In 2013 composer Matt Baker’s score was described as uniting ‘heaven and earth’ by The Observer.
Previewing his concept for 2018, the musicians sang and played excerpts from his original workings of the 15th century Adam Lay Ybounden and the traditional folk song Toss the Pot.
He said: “The themes I am developing can be performed in many different styles, from the epic to the lighthearted. Chester is awash with talented singers and musicians and I look forward to developing these themes with the company. I’ve been inspired by a whole new vision by Deborah and Peter but my composition will be very much shaped by the musicians and singers I meet in the next few weeks.”
Unveiling her plans for the set design for 2018 Dawn Allsopp said: “It is a timber structure with thrust staging, staircases and a higher platform which can act as a minstrels’ gallery. I like to think of it as a multi-layered timber playground - almost like the Ark bringing the stories to Chester Cathedral.”
Audition workshops for the Chester Mystery Plays will take place on the weekends of October 28 and 29 and November 4 and 5 in Chester and you must register in advance.
You will be asked if you are interested in playing a particular role or part of the ensemble and you will then be sent a selection of extracts to choose from which can either be learnt or read on the day.
Singers will be asked to prepare a song of their choice and musicians to bring along their instrument with a pre prepared piece where possible.
Children’s workshops will take place in January.
To book an audition place email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rehearsals will begin at the beginning of February 2018 and continue, mainly on weekends, until the performances from June 27 - July 14 in the nave of Chester Cathedral.
The Chester Mystery Plays were originally written in the 13th and 14th centuries and are produced by the people of Chester in the city once every five years.
Tickets are on sale now via the website www.chestermysteryplays.com, by telephone 01244 500959 or in person from Chester Cathedral.