One of life's great mysteries

31st May 1996 at 01:00

Cast members of The York Cycle of Mystery Plays have been left in no doubt as to the level of commitment required from them.

The Cycle has been reduced to slightly less than three hours but it is much more than a hastily-arranged community play. Director John Doyle is a thorough craftsman, constantly questioning his actors when they are rehearsing and setting them research tasks for their spare time.

Laura Beaumont, a 14-year-old pupil at the Mount School, says, "It's hard work. I have to speak in old English and we had to read about our characters - but it is exciting".

There are far fewer teachers in this year's production, perhaps reflecting increasing demands from the day job. But Alan Booty, a teacher in the cast, sees real benefits from being thoroughly involved with his particular outside interest.

"I contribute to other sixth-form courses so I'm not just a German or French teacher, I can talk about Shakespeare and Ayckbourn and now the Mystery Plays".

Alan, who is head of modern languages at Scarborough Sixth Form College, has moved from the seaside to live in York, a decision determined in part by the commitment he has made to the Mystery Plays. Now he does not have a 40-mile drive after an evening rehearsal. He has enjoyed amateur acting, with considerable success, but the Mystery Plays has raised his awareness of stage techniques and his perceptions of roles. He plays Abraham and Matthew the tax collector.

"It is such a wonderful experience being directed by a professional director. Being a German specialist I can see links between German and old English, but it was pointed out to me that one speech should be read with alliteration, it was put there for a purpose. Now I can give full value to that speech and I can emphasise the quality of the language.

"It's such tremendous fun. People have been whispering - hey isn't this fun?- as if they should be feeling guilty about it!" Alan admits to having wanted to be an actor in his youth. He has no regrets but being in the Mystery Plays is something he feels he owes to himself. How will he deal with the inevitable let down?

"Ah, I will be too busy. I have been OFSTEDed recently, but the Further Education Funding Council people are coming to Scarborough in September!"

York Theatre Royal, June 6-30, tel: 01904 623568. An education pack will soon be available from the marketing department, on the above telephone number

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