Medieval Miracles

Adapted and translated by Ivan Cutting & Tony Ramsey
Eastern Angles
Waldringfield Village Hall

Tom Blake as The Shepherd in The Trials of Joseph & Mary Credit: Mike Kwasniak
Tom Blake as Mankind with the Devils: Christian Graham (left) and Lily Beck (right) Credit: Mike Kwasniak
Arieta Visoka and Lily Beck in Mankind Credit: Mike Kwasniak

This is the last spring tour for outgoing the Artistic Director and founder of Eastern Angles, and so Ivan Cutting has chosen a subject that has engaged him ever since university days: Medieval Mystery plays.

In the 15th century, these were often the way people learnt about Biblical stories and certainly one of the most popular type of entertainments available to the ordinary people. Cutting has taken two of the most famous of their day, ones most connected to the East Anglian region, and given them an updated makeover.

In the first, The Trials of Mary and Joseph, four actors take on multiple roles in more traditional guise and, with rhyming couplets, they tell the story of the Nativity but start further back with Mary’s parents and birth, her presentation to the Temple as a child, her teenage years and her betrothment to Joseph before the angel's announcement of her pregnancy, her role as the mother of Jesus and the subsequent events.

With additional music and song and the injection of humour from the likes of Tom Blake’s Shepherd, some sceptical midwives and a rather modern-thinking Mary played very sweetly by Lily Beck, this is the traditional story with added extras.

The second half in contrast takes the 1490s play Mankind and updates it to a modern setting. Mankind is a morality play focusing on man’s struggle with good and evil. In the original, there are a number of devils trying to distract the good farmer from his path of righteousness. In this version, Mankind is an eco-friendly allotment holder, Mercy (Arieta Visko) is the local vicar and the devils Mischief (played by Christian Graham) and New Guise (Lily Beck as polar opposite to her role as Mary playing a rather loud, hippy type) set about trying to tempt Mankind to join them in their debauched lifestyles.

The play follows the original quite closely, including their attempts to call up a more senior devil Titvillus with audience participation, but doesn’t get too deep into theology or the darker side of the devils' plans. It stays humorous and light and is entertaining while getting the points across.

If you have never seen Medieval mystery plays before, this is a good introduction and an entertaining evening in Eastern Angles' usual village tour style. Catch it at a number of venues in East Anglia untill 20 May

Reviewer: Suzanne Hawkes

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