Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice of York today visited behind the scenes of York Minster’s spectacular production of the Mystery Plays.
Directed by Phillip Breen, with script by Tony nominated writer Mike Poulton, the critically acclaimed production is showing at York Minster in a strictly limited run until 30 June.
HRH Princess Beatrice, whose father, Prince Andrew, Duke of York is the production’s patron, was welcomed by Mr Barry Dodd, The Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire and the Very Reverend Vivienne Faull, Dean of York.
HRH Princess Beatrice’s tour started in the Minster’s Nave where she was accompanied by the producer Nicola Corp into the stunning 1000-seater auditorium and stage set created by award winning theatre designer Max Jones. Nicky described the multiple challenges of staging a modern theatrical show in the 800 year-old gothic cathedral in between regular services and the daily flow of visitors to the Minster.
HRH Princess Beatrice was first introduced to stage manager John Pemberton followed by five members of the 150-strong community cast: Ian Small (God); Elizabeth Stanforth-Sharpe (Dame Percula); Philip Massey (Pilate), Carla Woodcock (Daughter-in-law 1; Youth Chorus) and Marcus Richardson (Herod Antipas; Devil; Shepherd). She also met a small group of boys and girls representing the York Minster Choir – all of the choristers sing in the production.
Nicky then introduced HRH Princess Beatrice to Props Supervisor Beckie May whose props team created the extraordinary and much photographed animal menagerie for Noah’s Ark. York College provided space and a contingent of students to help with the making of some of the larger props such as the whale.
HRH Princess Beatrice heard about the contribution of the Mystery Makers, the 200-strong army of volunteers whose extraordinary range of skills, experience and commitment have been vital to the show’s success. The Mystery Makers include wardrobe, make-up, costume, backstage, front-of-house, mic runners and lighting assistants.
HRH Princess Beatrice’s visit concluded with a viewing of the cathedral’s magnificent East Front with Neil Sanderson, Director of the York Minster Fund. The East Front and the cathedral have been transformed by the £20 million, five year project York Minster Revealed (YMR). Supported by a generous £10.5 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project was one of the largest of its kind anywhere in Europe.
The work on the East Front included extensive replacement and conservation of the stone and restoration of 157 stained-glass panels which were removed, restored and returned to the window at the end of March 2016. In a UK first, ground-breaking, state-of-the-art UV protective glazing was fitted into the tracery to protect the newly restored stained-glass panels. The remaining 154 panels are currently undergoing restoration by the York Glaziers Trust and will be returned to the window early in 2018.
Commenting on HRH Princess Beatrice’s visit, the Dean of York, the Very Reverend Vivienne Faull said:
“It was wonderful to share the energy, commitment and enthusiasm of the Mystery Plays production with HRH Princess Beatrice. The Minster is very much at the centre of the production but the superhuman effort involved in getting the Plays on stage involves individuals, communities and businesses in York and beyond. The critical acclaim for the production is a tribute to the spirit of our wonderful community.”