THEY had more than 80 proposals, but the 10 writers and creatives who will be resurrecting the Durham Mysteries have been chosen, and were revealed yesterday.
Northumberland-based author David Almond, Newcastle-based poet and author Ellen Phethean and Durham-born musician and composer Timothy Craig Morrison are among those representing the North East in the collective that has been recruited to bring a contemporary twist to 10 of the world’s best-known stories.
While Skellig author David Almond will give Noah and the Flood a regional dunking, Ellen Phethean will be working with her DJ son, Fred, to offer an innovative and urban account of the story of Cain and Abel, and Timothy Craig Morrison will be developing his own unique take on The Crucifixion.
One of the earliest forms of live theatre, medieval mystery plays were commonplace across the country back in the 15th Century. Performed in cycles on festival days, they were a simple means of conveying Bible stories – such as the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, and the Day of Judgment – to a largely illiterate population.
The exciting new event – which is set to take place at locations across Durham over three nights in May next year – will see the creation of a new cycle of Mystery Plays, involving anything from dance, opera and musical theatre, to film and new media.
The final 10 writers were chosen on the strength of their ideas and scale of ambition to recreate the famous stories for modern day audiences.
As well as the aforementioned North Easterners, the list includes comedy writer and BBC Radio 3 presenter Ian McMillan, writer and director Toby Hulse, known for his stage adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, award-winning playwright Judy Upton, Chris Hannan, whose plays have been staged by both the RSC and National Theatre of Scotland, short film, comedy and horror writer Gavin Williams, and freelance operatic composer, singer-songwriter and director Em Whitfield Brooks.
Simon Stallworthy, director of Durham’s Gala Theatre and creative director for the Durham Mysteries, said: “We are very excited and honoured to have such talented and innovative writers, dance practitioners and composers keen to reinterpret the canon for what promises to be an unmissable event next year. The writers recently met for the first time to get to know each other and talk about their individual ideas.
“It was a very inspiring and creative meeting and I believe we have a really ambitious and spectacular event to look forward to next May.”
Kate James, creative programmer for Durham’s City of Culture bid, who initiated the project, said: “The Durham Mysteries demonstrate that Durham can attract a high caliber of creative talent, which will play an important role in the county’s bid to be UK City of Culture in 2013.
“This is just one example of the exciting programme, which will help Durham to secure the title.”
For more information on the Durham Mysteries project visit the website, which you can find at www.galadurham.co.uk