YORK Theatre Royal has announced details of its latest ‘mass participation’ community play.

A casting call went out last week for up to 100 amateur actors and musicians to take part in The Coppergate Woman, a new play which draws on the city’s Viking heritage.

Inspired by the skeleton of a Viking woman whose remains are displayed in a glass cage at Jorvik, Maureen Lennon’s original drama asks what would happen if the woman were one day to come back to life.

Maureen imagines the woman as a Valkyrie - a servant of the Norse god Odin whose job it was to guide lost souls to Valhalla.

York Press:

Juliet Forster, co-director of The Coppergate Woman, surveys the skeleton of the original Coppergate Woman at Jorvik

In her play, she comes back to life to help four modern York people face up to their own version of the the Viking Ragnarok - the ‘end of days’.

With a cast of 100-or-so amateur actors actors and musicians - and a large backstage crew also needed - it is just the latest in what has become a tradition of large-scale community productions in York put on by York Theatre Royal, often in partnership with other organisations.

There were the 2012 Mystery Plays, for example, staged in Museum Gardens.

York Press:

Ferdinand Kingsley as Jesus in the 2012 York Mystery Plays 

Produced in association with Pilot Theatre, the Plays brought together a small number of ‘high-profile’ actors plus two casts of 250 community performers of all ages and backgrounds to tell the story of the beginning and end of the world as seen through the eyes of York’s medieval guilds.

In 2013 there was Blood + Chocolate, the critically-acclaimed tale of chocolate workers in the city of York during the First World War.

With a cast of 180 and a backstage team of 600 volunteers, an audience of 300 were led every night through a city transformed by set pieces.

York Press:

A dramatic scene from Blood + Chocolate

2015’s In Fog and Falling Snow, staged at the NRM, had a cast of more than 200 community actors and hundreds more backstage as it told the story of York’s railway history. In 2017, meanwhile, Everything is Possible told the story of the York Suffragettes and their battle for the vote - again, with a cast of hundreds.

Many readers will have been involved with one of more of these productions. To remind you of how great they were, we reproduce in our gallery today some of the photos from those plays.

  • The Coppergate Woman will run at the Theatre Royal from July 30 to August 6. Tickets go on sale next month. To get involved in the production, find out more now by visiting yorktheatreroyal.co.uk