Playing a Part in History: The York Mysteries, 1951–2006
By Margaret Rogerson
University of Toronto Press, 2009
The York Mystery Plays are a cycle of originally performed on wagons in the city. They date from the fourteenth century and Biblical narrative from Creation to Last Judgment. After nearly four hundred years without a performance, a revival of the York Mysteries began in 1951 when local amateurs led by professional theatre practitioners staged them during the festival of Britain. Playing a Part in History examines the ways in which the revival of these plays transformed them for twentieth- and twenty-first-century audiences.
Considering such topics as the contemporary popularity of the plays, the agendas of the revivalists, and major production differences, Margaret Rogerson provides a fascinating comparison of medieval and modern English drama. Drawing extensively on archival material, and newspaper and academic reviews of the plays in recent years, Playing a Part in History is not only an illuminating account of early English drama, but also of the ways in which theatre allows people to interact with the past.