What do a Christian youth worker from Blacon, a university drama student from Limerick and a retired teacher from Broughton have in common?
Answer: they are just three of the almost 400-strong cast who will present the world-famous Chester Mystery Plays at Chester Cathedral this summer.
Nick Sherratt, who works for Chester Schools Christian Work, will play Jesus – a role he took in both the 2016 and 2017 City Passion performances.
He said: “Being involved with the Chester Mystery Plays is an incredible opportunity to work with so many amazing people and be part of something so significant for Chester.”
The Chester Mystery Plays, which tell Bible stories – including the Creation, Cain and Abel, Noah’s Ark, The Nativity and The Crucifixion – were first written in the 14th century by monks at the Abbey of St Werburgh (now Chester Cathedral) and performed by the guildsmen of the city on wagons around the streets.
A new script for the 2018 production has been written by award-winning playwright Deborah McAndrew presenting the whole story in five acts, performed over one night.
It’s not the first time Nick has appeared in the Chester Mystery Plays. As a 15-year-old, he appeared as an angel, one of Noah’s sons and a thief on the cross in the Crucifixion.
“As a person of faith it is interesting to play Jesus this time around, not just as a representation of the son of God, but also as 14th century guild members in Chester would have interpreted him,” added Nick.
Aisling Ryan, a drama student from Limerick in Ireland, is in Chester for a year as part of the European Erasmus study programme.
She jumped at the opportunity of auditioning for the production which is performed in the city once every five years.
Cast as the Holy Ghost, Aisling said: “I feel so grateful to be a part of something so much bigger then myself. The commitment and the talent involved is breathtaking.
“The whole experience feels like a blessing!”
Will Wood, a Chester Mystery Plays ‘veteran’ taught drama at St David’s High School in Saltney.
In the 2003 cycle he played Lucifer, in 2008 he portrayed both Joseph and Caiaphas and he will take on the role of God in the 2018 production.
He said: “It doesn’t matter how many times I do the plays, each time is so different. It is just wonderful this time to be surrounded by angels and the beautiful music that they sing.
“The first time I heard Matt Baker’s new composition for the Nine Orders of Angels this time round, I was so affected that the director Peter had to stop the rehearsal.
“He encourages contributions from cast members and his direction is always incisive and supportive.”
Director Peter Leslie Wild said: “I am delighted to back in Chester and working on ‘The Mysteries’ once again.
“It is so exciting to be part of this project which includes so many people of all ages and backgrounds, knowing that in a few months time they will be thrilling audiences in Chester Cathedral.
“So far the rehearsals have been great fun and the atmosphere is very positive.”
Other community actors cast include:
- Becca Gates-Patch, an administrator from Upton, as Lucifer
- Annie Howarth, a teaching assistant at St Martin’s Academy, as Mary
- Angela Ferguson, a lecturer at Wrexham Glyndwr University, as Elizabeth
- Nicholas Fry, a bedesman at Chester Cathedral, as Noah
- Fiona MacSween, deputy headteacher of St Oswald’s Primary School, as Mrs Noah
- Mike Wilding, a retired lecturer from Knutsford, as a shepherd and Peter the Disciple
- Jane Dawson, a civil servant from Mancot, as Annas
- Jenna McCaffery, headteacher of The Oaks Community Primary School, as Archangel
- Rachel Devaney, a Neston High School student, and Feana Salisbury, a Bishops High School student, as the young Eve
- Robin Leaning, a Catholic High School student, and Theo Lavin, a Tarporley High School student, as the young Adam
Tickets for the Chester Mystery Plays are on sale now via the website www.chestermysteryplays.com, by phone 01244 500 959, or in person from Chester Cathedral.
Image credit: Neil Kendall