Review: The Mysteries After Dark, Shambles Market, York, Wednesday

JAMES Swanton’s Lucifer slunk off into his sunset hell even before Judgement Day, the fifth, final and most fulfilling play of an experimental night that could not have gone better for everyone else.

By comparison with the defeated Devil, York Festival Trust chairman Roger Lee was beaming at the finale. “I think we may just have found a winning formula,” was his judgement. If 2018 artistic director Tom Straszewski’s template is to be repeated, a different selection of five plays from the York Cycle of Mystery Plays could be staged, maybe each year, certainly more often than the Guilds of York’s present four-yearly cycle, with the plays being picked for a particular theme.

Shambles Market, self-contained and accessible for pageant wagons, was the ideal cobbled location too, with food-market traders opening for the evening for coffee, crepes and such like. Food for thought for Make It York, York’s propagators of culture and tourism, who are keen to test out Shambles Market for evening entertainment and would have been encouraged by the response as a crowd of 125 gathered initially under the market awnings before moving around the square’s five “stations”.

Swanton, a black-humoured Lucifer with the gaunt, haunted mien of an F W Murnau film actor, was a sprightly, sly master of ceremonies for these satanic Mysteries; Joy Warner’s Jesus being raised high on the cross to the night sky by the Company of Butchers was a shuddering spectacle; busker John Holt Roberts’ blues holler and electric guitar could have raised the dead in The Harrowing Of Hell, and Ravens Morris’s Mardi Gras take on Judgement Day shone out as Hell made way for Hallelujah.

Charles Hutchinson