Review: Ambitious mysteries revealed with Playbox’s latest spectacular

The Mysteries. Picture by Peter Weston
The Mysteries. Picture by Peter Weston

Never short of ambition, Playbox Theatre has in the past staged The Ramayana, that massive epic of Hindu mythology; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a tale of giants and wizards.

They’ve shown us the world through the eyes of the Clown (Wonderia); and given us a boy’s experience of the First World War (The Shadow Roads).

Now they take on what is to some the greatest story ever told, The Mysteries.

Rooted in medieval mythology, The Mysteries was played for centuries in cities up and down England.

It was a kind of people’s theatre, telling the Christian version of the history of the world, past and future, from Creation to Doomsday.

Playbox light up the plot with some brilliant, and sometimes controversial, modern imagery.

The most intriguing for me was Jesus crucified wearing a Guantánamo Bay style orange jumpsuit.

Make of that what you will.

The Mysteries is essentially a ritual, and as such some of the notions of characterisation are stiff in comparison with modern day styles.

Nevertheless there were moments when individual performances rose above prescribed formulas.

Asher Hardy as Satan clearly relished his skill in inflicting pain.

Lynton Appleton showed Christ’s agony on the cross for what it was.

Individual performances aside, Playbox’s special gifts lie in their brilliant ensemble playing.

Crowd scenes bristled with energy and inventiveness.

You’d have to look to the big professional theatres to see this kind of physical theatre done as well.

Rating 9/10

By Nick Le Mesurier