York Mystery Plays: Meet the cast part II
Having recently caught up with the man of the arc, the 500-year old Noah in the first of this two part series meeting the cast of York Mystery Plays, I went to chat to one of the younger cast members of the Mysteries who is not having the typical teenage summer this year. Instead, Harry Lee is starting creation. Foraging the Garden of Eden and exploring a newly created universe, Harry, who is heading to Birmingham School of Acting this September, is all set to play the part of Adam in the 2012 York Mystery Plays.
So Harry, how does your involvement with the Mystery Plays differ from anything you’ve done in the past theatrically?
Well the Mystery Plays are so much bigger than anything I’ve ever done before. It’s going to be performed on the largest stage in the country which is amazing. We’re still at the stage where we’re working with only about a quarter of the people involved so I’ve no idea how many more people are going to flood onto the stage. Other than that, in terms of the language and the style of the theatre it’s very similar to Shakespeare for example. I mean there’s lots of rhyming couplets. It’s very interesting. I particularly enjoy working with Shakespeare and Middle English because you can interpret it in so many different ways which is just a wonderful thing to do.
The Mysteries are of course Medieval Plays. Do you think they still have something to give to a modern audience and to someone of your age?
Oh yes definitely. I mean it’s exactly the same in that respect as Shakespeare. The RSC, for example, have brought Shakespeare up-to-date to make it more accessible to a varied audience. So they’ll keep the language which is the essence of Shakespeare that has all the emotions and social situations we can relate to today, but they’ll change things like the costume or setting to bring it up-to-date. And it’s exactly the same with the Mystery Plays. We’re changing the costume to 1930s-50s, but at the very heart of it, it’s still the Medieval Middle English language and everything about the Bible stories that have lasted for thousands and thousands of years.
If you hadn’t have been cast as Adam, what part would you have liked to have played?
There are so many brilliant parts. Perhaps one of Noah’s sons would have been fun just to be on the boat. At the moment how it’s staged is that they’re on this boat and there are hundreds of people around them being the wave. I think it will be a wonderful thing to be standing on that boat watching all those people moving in and around you. If not, a bad guy like King Herod or, dare I say it, the devil. It’s fun being evil I think.
So what are you most looking forward to?
I think it will probably be just the sheer vastness of it. Everything about it is going to be huge. I don’t think personally that I’ll ever have the chance to work on a production as big as this with an audience this big unless I go into say the West End or the National Theatre. So it’s almost, quite possibly, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So there’s going to be that which will be giving me a surge of adrenaline which will be great.
Do you think that the community involvement has also been significant to the Mystery Plays?
Yes I think because this is York’s thing and they’ve been proud of it for nearly a millennia now, it has to be a part of the community. I think if a professional company took it on it would lose some of the spark that it has. It’s just wonderful that anyone from anywhere in York can come and be a part of it and show off everything that the Mystery Plays are about.
Just to sum up, if you had to sell the Mysteries to someone else using just three words, what would you say?
The biggest yet!
The York Mystery Plays 2012 run from 2nd- 27th August. Buy tickets here.