The Lord Mayor of Chester has officially granted permission to the players of the Chester Mystery Plays to perform at Chester Cathedral this summer.
The traditional Reading of the Banns ceremony, which began in medieval times, took place at Chester Town Hall Square on Saturday May 13.
Heralded by a fanfare from André Adams on saxophone, Year 12 Bishops High School student Gregory Black began the plea, maintaining the original plays’ reputation of being bawdy and irreverent. He told the Lord Mayor that he was playing one of the thieves on the cross with Jesus and ‘the bum of the snake’.
He was followed by Hammond School student Noah Marescaux, who plays Abel, Becca Patch, who shares the role of God and the Briggs-Harris family, mum Caroline, daughter Harriet, aged nine, and son Joseph aged 11 who play various parts.
Chester Town Crier David Mitchell then beseeched the Lord Mayor of Chester John Leather to allow the plays to be put on.
Mr Mitchell began his proclamation with the words:
“Worshipful Mayor of this fair city,
We come today respectfully,
Both men and women solemnly,
With Chester’s children all,
To bow to your authority,
And seek permission publicly,
To play our plays full heartily,
Within the city wall.”
Members of the Chester Mystery Plays company with the Lord Mayor of Chester John Leather, the Lady Mayoress, Deputy Mayor Sheila Little and Town Crier David Mitchell after the Reading of the Banns ceremony. L-R Top Row Chairman of Chester Mystery Plays Ian Sanderson, Becca Patch, Gregory Black, Noah Marescaux, André Adams, Middle Row: Deputy Mayor Sheila Little, Lord Mayor of Chester John Leather, Lady Mayoress Heather Leather, Caroline Briggs-Harris, Chris Walton, Front Row: Harriet Briggs-Harris, Joseph Briggs-Harris and Town Crier David Mitchell. Picture Credit Ian Cooper Photography
Members of the Chester Mystery Plays company at Chester Cross listen to Town Crier David Mitchell tell passers by about their production. Picture Credit Ian Cooper Photography
The Lord Mayor then responded: “People of Chester, the players of this city wish to perform The Mystery Plays in the summer of this year. These plays are part of the rich heritage of this historic city. It is with great pleasure, therefore, that I grant permission for the plays to be performed in the nave of the Cathedral from Wednesday 28th June to Saturday July 15th 2023. Good luck to you all!”
Chairman of the Chester Mystery Plays company Ian Sanderson said: “In the 15th century, when the Reading of the Banns ceremony was first recorded, it would have been like the social media of its time, letting the people of the city know that the Chester Mystery Plays were being performed.
“I would like to thank the Lord Mayor, the Town Crier and the dedicated performers from our company for keeping this tradition and the Chester Mystery Plays alive in the 21st century.”
Town Crier David Mitchell and Lord Mayor of Chester John Leather after granting permission for the Chester Mystery Plays to be performed. Picture credit Mark Carline
The Chester Mystery Plays are produced only once every five years in the city by a large community company under professional direction. The professional team behind the 2023 cycle includes director John Young, composer and musical director Matt Baker and designer Jess Curtis.
The 2023 production is at Chester Cathedral from June 28 – July 15. Tickets are available from http://www.chestermysteryplays.com, by telephone 01244 500959 or in person at the Chester Cathedral box office.