The darker side of the Mystery Plays

Experience the Mystery Plays like never before at their “after- dark” performance in York’s Shambles Market on Wednesday 12th September.

For twenty years, the Guilds of York have been performing episodes of the York Mystery Plays on the streets of York. This year they spread a pair of bat-like wings as they show off the darker side of these medieval plays.

Make It York had been looking for ways to use the Shambles Market as a performance space, to broaden its use outside of the market’s daytime hours. Tom Straszewski, the Artistic Director for the Plays, describes the process: “When we started talking about a set of performances in the Shambles, we needed something to link them together. Looking through the groups who were able to be involved, their plays were all on the nastier side- tales of temptation, murder and betrayal. For our Sunday performances, God starts things off with the creation of the world, and keeps a firm hand on the wheel as the plays progress. This is a bit different- Lucifer starts his own plays off with the first murder, then tries to keep his own brand of fun going as long as he can. Ultimately, God will take over again for our final Sunday performance. It’s a story of turning darkness into light, perfect for our later September performances as the autumn nights begin to creep in.”

The Shambles Market will be turned into a hive of devilish activity as the Devil himself takes over for the evening. Elements of the York Plays have been used to create a linking story as Lucifer flexes his muscles and tries to keep control. Whilst the Sunday performances, taking place on consecutive Sundays (9th & 12th September) see the wagons move from station to station, however in the Shambles it will be the audience who move from place to place. As demons and angels roam the marketplace, the York Waits will be using their music to guide the audience between each play.

The plays start with the Lords of Misrule getting medieval with the first murder. Then there are scenes of temptation from the Cordwainers, and a bloody Crucifixion from the Butchers of York. There’s a fight for the souls of the departed in the Harrowing of Hell, which sees a hellish prison turned upside down. And for the big finale, the Ravens Morris will be lighting up the market with a heavenly host of angels on Judgement Day.

Playing Lucifer is James Swanton, bringing some devilish charm to the Shambles as a demonic MC for the evening. He comes off the back of filming Frankenstein’s Creature, due to premiere at London’s FrightFest in late August. He is well known in York and beyond as an accomplished horror actor, including blood-soaked appearances as Count Dracula and in Sikes & Nancy at the West End’s Trafalgar Studios.

Tickets to the evening performance and both Sunday’s can be purchased at –

The York Festival Trust, the team behind the Plays, are also in their final weeks of a Crowdfunding campaign to raise the remaining money to cover the costs of this year’s Plays after having not been awarded with funding from the Arts Council. If you would like to support this community production you can do at –


Add a comment

  • No comments yet.
  • chat
    Add a comment