THE future of York's Mystery Plays will be decided in the New Year.

Ben Pugh, the expert asked to investigate whether a major production could once again be staged in the Museum Gardens, has started work.

He is expected to present a comprehensive report to a full meeting of the York Mystery Plays Association by late January.

By then, he will have looked in detail at a range of practical and financial issues.

These include:

  • the full costs of staging the Plays again
  • the practicalities of erecting a large and covered seating stand in the gardens, where there are important archaeological remains just under the surface
  • The pros and cons of employing a professional star or a local amateur to play Christ

He will also examine two possible options for the association: whether it should appoint a production company or run the Plays itself by appointing staff directly.

Mr Pugh was asked to carry out the investigation by City of York Council and the Mystery Plays Association, which was formed after the Evening Press launched a campaign to save the Plays.

The campaign followed news that no production was planned in 2004, as would normally happen under the traditional four-year cycle - news which dismayed and saddened many readers.

Keith Wood, who chairs a feasibility working party set up by the association, and Rory Mulvihill, a driving force behind efforts to revive the tradition, say they feel "very positive" after a meeting with Mr Pugh, who was heavily involved in the Millennium production at the Minster and has organised a number of large-scale events including Sightsonic.

"He is the top man. He knows his stuff and is completely unfazed by the size of the task," said Mr Mulvihill, who has played Christ and the Devil in previous years.

Mr Wood said the report should provide all the information needed by the association to decide whether to press ahead with staging the Plays again, and when.