It all began with a phone call while Mike Kenny was at Doha Airport in Qatar during a stopover en route to a holiday in Thailand.

The then-Chief Executive of York Theatre Royal Tom Bird was calling to ask playwright Mike if he’d write the theatre’s forthcoming community play - an adaptation of C.J. Sansom’s novel Sovereign.

The novel, one of Sansom’s bestselling series of Tudor-set mystery thrillers featuring lawyer detective Matthew Shardlake, revolves around a visit to York by King Henry VIII and a large retinue in the 1540s.

Three or more years after that initial phone call to Mike, Sovereign reaches the stage - though not of York Theatre Royal itself.

Instead, the play will be performed on an outdoor stage at King’s Manor in Exhibition Square - where key scenes in the novel the play is based on take place.

“I had actually read the book and was a bit of a Shardlake fan,” says Mike. “I would ask for the book at Christmas if a new one was coming out.

“The call to adapt Sovereign came out of the blue and that was great. The book was an incredibly good fit for a community production and large cast, as it happens in York at a time the place was very crowded because of Henry VIII’s visit. The community cast can populate the city.”

Mike previously adapted York Mystery Plays for a community production and that came into play as he began adapting the book.

“Henry had brought about great religious change, sacking abbeys and closing churches. York was a big Catholic city - and Yorkshire too,” he says.

“I wondered how the people of York felt about all that Henry had done. So I framed the play almost as one of the mystery plays with Henry becoming the head of the church and stepping into the role of God.

“The research into Tudor times had already been done by Sansom who created a twisty-turny whodunnit with a fantastic detective at its heart.

“The challenge was that it’s a very long read. With 700-plus pages you have to lose things when writing a play but it’s a whodunnit so you’re sometimes cutting out suspects and red herrings. You worry it will be obvious whodunnit so I had to make sure I kept the mystery going.”

With Fergus Rattigan and Sam Thorpe-Spinks filling the roles of Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak, the cast gender balance was remedied by giving the bulk of the storytelling to a group known as the Guild Women of York - and, oh yes, having God played by a woman.

Sovereign will be performed on an outdoor stage at King’s Manor from July 15-30. Tickets 01904 623568/