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The first of Tony Harrison's mystery plays was performed in All Saints' Church, Turvey, on Friday 13th and Saturday 14th January 2006.

The Nativity 2006

The Turvey production of the first of Tony Harrison’s Mystery Plays, The Nativity, had a long gestation. Jo Spray saw Harrison’s celebrated cycle of plays at the National Theatre in the 1980s. Tim Brewster saw them on Channel 4 and bought the scripts which then sat on his bookshelf for 10 years. In Spring 2005 he happened to mention to Jo that he’d really love to stage the plays, they chatted for a while, co-opted Jane Brewster and Cathy Swift – and the rest is history!

We put up posters, dropped leaflets through doors, made announcements in Church, wrote an article for Turvey News, chatted with friends, then waited to see who would turn up for the first meeting. We weren’t disappointed! There was such a mix of people – some who knew the plays (although most didn’t), experienced performers, complete novices, church-goers, choir members, Turvey residents, non-Turvey residents, old friends, new friends. All had a go at reading – and what a lot of talent there was!

The cast sing Lay Me Low

The parts were cast and rehearsals got under way. We think we can safely say that it must have been a long time since Turvey had seen anything quite like it! The Nativity tells of the fight of good against evil, beginning with the stories of the Creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Abraham and Isaac and Noah, and finishing with the Nativity itself. There’s singing and dancing (you might be quite surprised at who we persuaded to sing and dance!), moments to make you think, moments to make you laugh – in fact the humour is rather earthy at times, reflecting the origin of the Medieval Mystery Plays as the ordinary working folk’s way of presenting what is truly “the greatest story ever told”.

This was firmly a community production. The characters were played as ordinary people, by ordinary people. The language of The Nativity is sometimes medieval, sometimes modern – at times Shakespeare, at times Eastenders. The music also draws from a wide range of sources, ranging from Shaker hymns and dance tunes to Bob Dylan. The Turvey production used a large live band, allowing orchestration similar to that created for and performed in the original production by John Tams’ band “Home Service”. The band arrangements for Turvey were created using lead sheets supplied by Graeme Taylor (original Home Service member and Musical Director of the National Theatre's revival production in 1999) and published recordings.

See the links on the right for a cast list and photographs of the production.