The Lichfield Mysteries
Part three: Drops of Blood
By Phil Preece
I’m slightly ashamed to say I’ve never seen the Lichfield Mysteries before. I mean, I like theatre, it’s free and it’s in Lichfield, so what’s not to like?
Well I suppose I thought it might be a tad dull given that this form of medieval drama was swept away by the sophisticated theatre of Shakespeare’s day, and what’s more, it takes place in the chilly outside. But this year, seduced by a glance at the programme featuring episodes with names like The Harrowing of Hell and Doomsday, plus learning that I could see it safe from showers in the cathedral, I decided to give it a whirl.
I chose the last section of the story, got there early to bag a seat and was frankly amazed at the professionalism of what I saw. So many different community groups, everything from primary schools to pubs, had taken on sections of the tale and given them their own spin that the result was a kaleidoscope of forms and methods.
I couldn’t possibly give a detailed account of what I actually saw in this third section of the all-day Mysteries – there’s just isn’t space, so I’ll content myself with snapshots of some of the more memorable items from this richly diverse event. There was the story of Jesus’ first miracle, turning water into wine, performed by a group who’d travelled all the way from France and who handed out free tasters of the red stuff.
Gentleshaw Primary School, whose charming Entry into Jerusalem featuring Jack Wall as Jesus brought a tear to the eye. There was the lovely singing of the Disciples in South Staffs College’s zany Mad Hatter’s Tea Party version of the Last Supper.
I enjoyed Polly Dixon as the blingy woman in question in the Darwin Players’ Dream of Pilate’s Wife. There was the dignity and vulnerability of Alan Weaver’s Christ as he dragged a genuine, heavy cross in Wade Street Church’s raw portrayal of the Crucifixion. Chris Hughes as the Liverpudlian Landlady who earned her place in Hell by allowing drinking – in a pub! – in The Lichfield Arts Company of Players’ Harrowing of Hell. The exquisite singing in Lichfield Cathedral’s Resurrection specially composed for the occasion, and finally the sight of Lichfield’s esteemed Mayor Councillor Brian Bacon being accepted into heaven after seeing the error of his ways in The Mystery Players’ truly spectacular Doomsday.
So will I be watching this wonderful community event again next time? Try stopping me – I’m looking forward to it already. I may even give myself a treat and see all three parts of the whole day-long thing.