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Riverside Players - The Mysteries: Creation to Crucifixion

24th to 28th August 2004.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Cycle complete in under three hours

Riverside Players: The Mysteries - Creation to Crucifixion, at Pangbourne College, from Tuesday, August 24 to Saturday, August 28

The mystery plays date from the fifteenth century and a complete cycle could last for 14 hours. The Riverside Players’ version concentrated on the early days of the world, and the birth and death of Jesus, which reduced it to just under three hours.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve (Paul Stephenson and Maddie Hinchliffe) braved the chilly English summer evening and got off to a cracking start, with Alex Rogers as Lucifer engineering their fall. This was followed by a surreal interlude with six horses doing the Dance of the Reeds, leading into Cain and Abel. Alex Colman as Cain was angry and evil, a role he carried into later appearances as the adulterous man and Caiaphas, and Paddy Crawley was good as the insubordinate servant.

The story of Noah was good fun, with Colin Burnie as Noah, henpecked by Rosemary Saunders as his wife. This was followed by The Annunciation, with strong performances from Heather Saunders as Mary and Pollyann as the donkey.

The Second Shepherds’ Play was well acted but too long; by the time the interval came, the difficulty of the archaic language had taken its toll on me.

In Herod the Great, Bob Booth was a sinister Herod, looking disconcertingly like Colonel Gadaffi, but the episode with the knights killing the babies lacked pace and conviction.

Alex Rogers had now changed sides and reappeared as the grown up Jesus; a sensitive portrayal and a good contrast with his Lucifer. In the Trial of Jesus, Andrew Whiffin was a reasonable and fair Pilate. The final scene was Crucifixion. This was very well done, and ended with the crucified Jesus magically transforming into the original tree from the Garden of Eden, bringing us full circle from the beginnings of life, through to death and then the promise of life starting again. The play ended as it had started, with the cast on stage in modern dress representing “all sorts and conditions of men”.

Director Tony Butterfield also designed the set, with an impressive ark. His production was challenging for the cast and the audience, and provided an uplifting evening’s entertainment.