YORK Mystery Plays’ return to its home in the Museum Gardens has been welcomed by the cast and crew who have helped bring the event back to York’s events calendar.

Jonathan Brown, general manager of Riding Lights Theatre Company, said: “People have really fond memories of the plays being here. It has a fabulous outdoor setting, with a festival atmosphere. It just feels good.”

The Mystery Plays have not been held in the Museum Gardens since 1988, said Jonathan, after which they took place twice in the York Theatre Royal before the final performance in the Minster in 2000.

But it is those that took place in the Museum Gardens that are the best remembered, he said.

Riding Lights’ artistic director Paul Burbridge, who is joint artistic director with Damian Cruden, artistic director of York Theatre Royal on the plays, agreed.

He said: “I have seen successive mystery plays including two or three in the Museum Gardens in the late 1970s and 1980s and the ones that really live with me are the ones that took place here.”

In terms of the artistic direction, he said, the plays will draw on tradition.

He said: “It will be a really passionate piece of story-telling that will appeal to people of religious faith or people of no religious faith.”

Antiques dealer Ruth Ford, has been acting in the Mystery Plays since 1973 when she played Percula, the wife of Pontius Pilate who in the Bible is the judge who authorises Christ’s execution. She also starring as God in 1996 and 2006.

Her favourite role was in 1976 when she played Mary Magdalene alongside a Christ played by David Bradley, who has since played caretaker Argus Filch in the Harry Potter movies.

She said: “Everything about the summer seemed to be right.

“The setting in the Museum Gardens was absolutely wonderful and I just love the story behind Magdalene and the way it was directed. The crucifixion coincided with dusk and scenically it was just magnificent.”

Ruth’s partaking in the Mystery Plays sparked her passion for acting and she did a small amount of professional acting before her husband became ill with a brain tumour. She said the activity also helped her cope when he died in 1996.

She said: “When he died my world fell apart and playing God was an amazing thing to happen.”