The York Crucifixion is one of 48 plays covering sacred history that make up the York Mystery Cycle. There is no firm ruling on who wrote the York cycle, although it is generally agreed that a group of clerics is the most likely. The playwright, however, is recorded as Anonymous. The Mystery plays dominated English drama during the 14th – 16th centuries, and The York Crucifixion focuses on the four soldiers who crucify Jesus.
It is rare that the mystery plays are performed, but Happy Dagger Theatre and Hale have taken a HUGE leap into new and uncharted territory with their adaptation. The four soldiers appear here as bouffons, creatures that are not human and exist to mock. Their greatest delight is to make war, fight, and kill each other.
Hence we watch a play mocking the sacredness of Easter and Christ’s crucifixion. I personally didn’t find it offensive, but I imagine it would offend many. There were four characters constantly fighting and mock killing each other, breaking out in inappropriate songs and comments such as ‘ha-ha . . .nailing. . . that must hurt’, then roaring outrageously. It was a riotous, raucous hour long event.
The mystery cycles were originally performed on movable wagons, and set designer Bryan Woltjen utilised this in his brilliant set design. There is only one piece - a wonderfully intricate contraption made out of forty three lengths of wood, nails and dowels.
The piece arrives onstage originally as a wagon pulled by a cast member. After a few runs around the large, otherwise empty stage, the cast spend the show disassembling and reassembling the many pieces into various items: a cage, a wagon, and most importantly, a large cross. On this, Jesus (played with torturous lack of emotion by Renée McIntosh) hangs for much of the last 15 minutes of the play.
The four male performers – Damon Lockwood, Igor Sas, Benj D’Adarrio and Kingsley Judd, should be applauded for their energy and sustained manic performance. Unfortunately the lack of diction from all performers, coupled with the acoustics of Rechabites’ Hall, ensured that I (sitting in the third row) could not understand what they were saying 90% of the time. This meant I relied almost entirely on their actions, which whilst entertaining, I found frustrating because they didn’t go anywhere. Indeed, whilst there were sections that worked well, there were parts that felt like one big improvisation session.
I don’t believe The York Crucifixion is going to appeal to many people, and from a finance point of view, that is not good. Artistically though, it is a bold move to take, and it was exciting, if irrelevant to watch. If the cast can sort out their diction and projection, then I expect it will become a highly entertaining show.
Happy Dagger Theatre presents
THE YORK CRUCIFIXION
**contains language and nudity
Venue: The Rechabites Hall Northbridge
Dates: March 6 – 23
Times: Tues - Sun @ 7.30pm; late shows Fri/Sat @ 9.30pm
Tickets: $35 Conc $20
Bookings: BOCS 9484 1133