A LONG-dead Viking woman comes to life to help four modern York people face up to their own version of the 'end of days', in the latest epic community production being planned by York Theatre Royal.

The theatre has put out a call for as many as 100 amateur performers to take part in The Coppergate Woman, which will run on the theatre's main stage from July 30 to August 6.

The lead role in the production will be played by a professional actor.

But in the tradition of past epic community performances in York - such as 2015's In Fog and Falling Snow about the 'Railway King' George Hudson and 2013's Blood + Chocolate, about the Lord Mayor's Christmas gift of chocolate to York soldier's serving on the front in the First World War - the vast bulk of the 100-or-so parts for performers and musicians will go to amateurs.

The theatre is also appealing for volunteers to get involved in backstage work - in stage management, wardrobe, lighting, props, and so-on.

Written by Hull-born author Maureen Lennon, The Coppergate Woman is inspired by the real-life 'Coppergate Woman' - a Viking woman who died centuries ago and whose bones were found in a shallow pit by the River Foss. Her skeleton is now displayed in a glass cage at Jorvik.

York Press:

Co-director Juliet Forster gazes at the skeleton of the Coppergate Woman

In Maureen's imagining, the woman was a Valkyrie - a servant of the Norse god Odin whose job it was to guide lost souls to Valhalla.

For years, her skeleton has gazed out impassively at the thousands of visitors who come to see her at the Viking museum. But then one day, the city of York goes quiet - and the Coppergate Woman rises again...

“I revisited the Jorvik Viking Centre in York when I first got commissioned," explained Maureen. "I used to love it when I was younger, growing up in Hull, but hadn’t been for years.That’s where the idea for The Coppergate Woman struck me.

"I wondered if she was lonely. I wondered who she had been and what she would think about me staring at her now. I wanted her to speak – although obviously in reality I’m glad she didn’t!”

There's a distinct 'end of days' theme to the play - which, with the pandemic still refusing to go quietly, and war raging in Ukraine, seems oddly appropriate.

York Press:

Writer Maureen Lennon with the recreated model of the Coppergate Woman in Jorvik. Picture: Anthony Robling 

"The Vikings had an end of the world story in their mythology, Ragnarok, and in our tale the Coppergate Woman is awakened to try to help four people of York live through their own version of Ragnarok," Maureen said. "It’s about hope and heartache and loss – and starting again, together.”

The Coppergate Woman is a co-production with Jorvik.

Juliet Forster, the play's co-director, said the Vikings had seemed a natural choice.

“The idea came from thinking about the importance of storytelling in our world and how do we draw people together," she said. "The Vikings were storytellers and I started thinking about the Vikings because it’s an area we as a theatre had not explored before.”

If you would like to be involved in the production, visit yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

Tickets go on sale next month.