Feudalism can be fun

21st March 1997 at 00:00
The Unicorn Theatre's spine-tingling production of The Mysteries offers a heavenly, ribald experience. Director Richard Williams has evolved a concentrated version for children over eight, based on the Wakefield, York and Chester cycles.

From a raked plank stage amid clouds of smoke bursts the cast echoing performances by 14th century craftsmen on trundling carts. Delivered in ripe vernacular for the New Testament, intoned in Middle English for the Old, these verse dramas rooted in the Bible make for comic, potent street theatre, often knockabout, always powerful.

The multi-ethnic cast rips through regional accents from Geordie to West Indian patois, conjuring an Irish Lucifer and Yorkshire, female God. Movement director Terry John Bates creates a world humming with activity. Joanna MacGregor's soaring adaptation of African-American music infuses the piece with hot Gospel spirituals, blending Latin plainsong with infectious a capella and surging percussion.

Contextualised by a teachers' pack exploring the feudal world view through classroom dramatisation, this uplifting production is a fine example of oral storytelling.

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