Presenting the Banns – The Creation and Deluge: a medieval drama of human folly in Iffley

Did you plunge into the high middle ages last Sunday and hear our forebears explaining the Creation of the World? Did you see Lucifer being thrown out of Heaven, and Adam and Eve biting into the forbidden apple? Did you hear the animals entering Noah’s ark and the flood-waters tossing the ship? Do you want to see more?

This was what ‘reading the banns’ was all about: to give an idea of the Mystery Play to be performed in Iffley, and to give actors, helpers and audience the option to clear their diaries for 29th and 30th June next year.

David Wiles and the seven actors, Anthony, Deborah, Patrick, Alex, Pemma, Kathryn and Juliette and two musicians, Penny and Anna, had spent the previous day working hard on the unfamiliar but glorious language of the N-Town mystery cycle. Their interpretation was thrilling. Their performance outside the west front of the church kept the all-age audience utterly absorbed.

Members of the audience voiced their impressions thoughtfully. ‘The language and the architecture seemed to fit,’ was a comment that expressed the juxtaposition of the extraordinary grandeur of the vision of the creation myth with the awe-inspiring statement made by the builders of St Mary’s Church. That ‘it was funny! There was lots of humour!’ pin-pointed the power of the simplicity of the acting style, props and the medieval language. ‘It seemed to communicate. People listened.’

The music, played very subtly on simple medieval instruments, created the perfect accompaniment. ‘It’s surprising what a little of music does to create a scene.’

One of the actors told me, almost with tears in his eyes, ‘This is something I’ve wanted to do for years’. The 15-minute performance confirmed that the west front of the church makes for a good natural theatre, both visually and acoustically. ‘Voice projection isn’t too bad here,’ as one of the audience observed. The stunning back-drop and the grassy lawn enable audience, actors and musicians to generate a spontaneous rapport, a powerful sense of community.

‘It gave an idea of what it’s going to be like. I think it came off really well. It’s great!’ What an encouraging start for Iffley’s Mystery Play. Now for the really hard work! Do get involved!

Penny Tyack