As part of a six-month residency in Chelmsley Wood artist Chris Alton is co-producing a contemporary take on a ‘Mystery Play’ to be performed in Spring 2019. Alton will work with local residents to explore story telling through a series of creative writing, performance, set and costume making workshops from January-April 2019.
Alton’s residency is the first part of Link and Shift, a new multi-year programme of Artists Residencies and Artists Walks in the public realm developed by Eastside Projects in partnership with West Midlands Railway.
A form of medieval theatre, ‘Mystery Plays’ were performed across multiple roaming stages known as ‘pageant wagons’ that were wheeled through a town. Historically they were made by, and for, the people of the town and so would celebrate the idiosyncrasies of the locality by referencing aspects of their setting, such as local landmarks, characters and concerns. Some of the earliest recorded ‘Mystery Plays’ were performed in Coventry, only twelve miles from modern day Chelmsley Wood, from 1392–1393.
Evolving from morality plays, ‘Mystery Plays’ took on more surreal and humorous subject matter, featuring commentary on contemporary life. Using the methodology of co-production, common to ‘Mystery Plays’ and more recent forms of community theatre, Alton’s project will invite local residents with an interest in woodwork and making, sewing and textiles, set-design, drama or local history to create a play responding to their everyday experiences of living in Chelmsley Wood.
Alton wants the play to engage with Chelmsley Wood’s existing local myths and make new ones, creating space for residents to be imaginative and encouraging conversation and collaboration. Whilst the performance of A Mystery Play for Chelmsley Wood will be a one-off event, he hopes it will be the start of a new local tradition, and evolve into an event, which could be staged year after year.
Local residents who have a vision for Chelmsley Wood’s future, and would like to get involved in the project should email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the ‘A Mystery Play for Chelmsley Wood’ Facebook page here.