TWO PLANKS AND A PASSSION
by Anthony Minghella.
Theatre Royal St Leonard’s Place YO1 7HD To 16 July 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 16 July 2.30pm & 7.30pm.
BSL Signed 13 July.
Post-show Discussion: 12 July.
Runs 2hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 01904 623568.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 9 July.
20th-century look at 14th-century dramas in vibrant 21st-century production.
Created to glorify God and the City, York’s medieval Mystery plays are due another revival next year. Meanwhile there’s a rarer revival, of Anthony Minghella’s exploration into the complex forces involved in pleasing the divine and the civic. It’s a reminder of theatre’s loss in Minghella’s move to film, and his premature death.
Producing the Mysteries, which dramatise the biblical journey from Creation to Doomsday, involved private financing and communal production. Minghella shows a grumpy boss stumping-up cash and a self-absorbed actor showing-off his technique and special effect exploding rear.
The Mysteries, still quite new in the play’s 1392 setting, were already being updated, with new effects. The Crucifixion’s offered by rival troupes in splendid new, and honest old, styles, while the tradesmen-actors can’t help infusing their day-job’s skills into their roles as crucifiers.
Despite the title, which sits alongside Peter Brook’s ‘empty space’ as a basic definition of theatre, Minghella makes clear performance is also a social act. Alongside the generally fine, sometimes excellent community performances (there are two groups of local people acting, under the team headings ‘Masons’ and ‘Tailors’, reflecting the kind of trade-guilds who each supplied an instalment in the story) there’s a social ‘upper storey’ of King Richard II, Queen Anne and royal favourite Warwick, played by three professional actors (occasionally a paid performer was hired for the local Mysteries cast).
These capture the privileged playfulness of power, spending a lot of time politely canoodling in their hosts’ homes, on the side platforms of Dawn Allsopp’s ensemble season set, in bedrooms where the queen gathers beds as presents – ironically given her outcome in the play. The eventual fate of Richard’s reign is suggested in the tensions he’s avoiding and which the hostile Archbishop expresses.
The directors, from York’s co-producing Theatre Royal and Riding Lights company, create a swirl of activity in the outdoor and Mystery scenes, and of royal and civic pride in-between, making the Theatre Royal’s audience-encircled stage seem a town square, stirring the succession of royal, municipal and private scenes into a confident picture that makes medieval life and art immediate and alive.
Oxford: Michael Lambourne.
Anne: Emily Pithon.
Richard: Jonathan Race.
Thomas: Jon Adams/David Rounce.
Archbishop: Ray Alexander/Tim Hayward.
Walter: Jonathan Boustead/James Rotchell.
Will: Tom Jackson/Rory Mulvihill.
Edward: Luke James/Toby Gordon.
Sarah: Edith Kirkwood/Gemma Shelton.
Geoffrey: Lee Maloney/Maurice Crichton.
Jolyf: Paul Mason/David Jarman.
William: Nigel Forde/Ian Giles.
Kathryn: Maggie Smales/Rebecca Beattie.
Father Melton: Paul Stonehouse.
Alice: Helen Wilson/Mandy Newby.
Ensemble: Tiz Bacon, Carl Bowstead, George Harrison, Alice Mapplebeck, Helen McLean, Bill Laverick, Colin Lea, William Lee, Sheelagh Loftus, Rachel Price, Pauline Redman, Rosy Rowley, Scarlet Rowley, Samuel Elcock/Ian Birkinshaw, Carl Bowstead, Chris Green, Kris Grummitt, Mandie Hudson, Andrew Jenkinson, Danny Morland, Sonia Perry, Sarah Redhead, Pam Reed, Joan Sinahan, Chris Tavers, Beryl White, Natalia Wilson, Andy Williams.
Directors: Paul Burbridge, Juliet Forster.
Designer: Dawn Allsopp.
Lighting: Richard G Jones.
Composer: Christopher Madin.
Assistant director: Sarah Davies.
Costume: Anna Gooch.