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Sustainability a key theme at this year’s Mystery Plays

Sustainability a key theme at this year’s Mystery Plays

Posted on 17 June 2022

This year’s famous Mystery Plays will have a strong focus on sustainability, according to the Artistic Director, University of York PhD researcher Tom Straszewski.

Artistic Director, Tom Straszewski. Pic credit: Duncan Lomax

For the next fortnight over 400 volunteers will come together to tell eight stories on pageant wagons that move between stations across the city, culminating at the University of York’s King’s Manor.

The plays will be performed on Sundays and Wednesdays starting Sunday 19 June.

York’s famous Mystery Plays were first performed in medieval times. Though the tradition was lost during the Reformation, The York Festival Trust revived the performances in the 90s and stages them every four years.

Fresh approach

This year Artistic Director, The University of York’s Tom Straszewski, has come up with a fresh approach and a focus on sustainability.

Mr Straszewski, a PhD researcher in the Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media, said: “Our theme for 2022 is sustainability and we have considered the  environmental angle by avoiding or reducing certain materials, and also the ways that we can ensure we sustain the tradition in the future.

 “In their current form, the Mystery Plays have been running for 24 years and we want to ensure we inspire the next generation. 

“We are performing plays about handing on ideas or traditions, finding medieval precedents, and linking these to modern concerns in York such as flooding and climate change.

“In the case of the Three Kings, one does not want to pass over his power and wants to support himself. We see similar examples of the pursuit and preservation of power around the world in modern times too.”

Historic connections

Mr Straszewski first performed on a wagon in 2008 and directed one of the plays in 2014 before becoming artistic director in 2018. He is tasked with building on the success of the last production, selecting from 48 surviving scripts and working them around the theme of sustainability.

The plays recount Bible stories, with different Guilds, companies and groups of the city performing different plays. Mr Straszewski works to match the right groups to appropriate plays, based on topic, number of performers and in some cases historic connections.

The Butchers Guild traditionally performs The Crucifixion because of the amount of blood involved. In medieval times that play would have been performed by butchers.

The University’s Centre for Medieval Studies is represented by its medieval theatre company, the Lords of Misrule, who will perform the Baker’s Play of the Last Supper.

Since the original source material for this pageant is significantly damaged, the Lords of Misrule have also ‘rebuilt’ the missing text, using their experience in adapting medieval theatre plays. The Baker’s Play will incorporate material from other medieval play cycles from elsewhere in England, as well as the Biblical and medieval accounts of the Last Supper.

The director of The Last Supper, is Emily Hansen who has a PhD from the University and is a member of the Department of History.

Local communities

Mr Straszewski is a professional director and PhD researcher in the Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media. His work explores how theatre-makers use their sites and venues to shine a light on the concerns of local communities.

He grew up outside York and believes the city is a fascinating backdrop for these performances. 

He added: “In York we have such mixed architecture, with medieval, Georgian, Victorian and modern buildings. In previous years, groups have interacted with the buildings in York, for example, they’ve used the old city walls to represent Jerusalem’s walls, or one of our churches was recreated on the wagon, effectively touring that church around the city.”

 “Our players’ work reflects this with some recreating a medieval play, others drawing inspiration from the city’s history, and others creating very modern productions. I’m very proud to be a part of these productions and excited to watch them unfold over the next fortnight.”

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Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands’ Mirrors of Mystery Would Have Made Great Seasonal Events or Minor DLC


Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands has proven to be a big success, and for good reason. Gearbox’s new franchise delivered an entertaining story mode full of colorful locations, hilarious dialogue, and addictive gameplay. Fans loved the Dungeons and Dragons-inspired character creator and Overworld, with spells also being a big hit with the Borderlands community.

Despite all the goodwill Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands had at launch, though, the game’s season pass has been heavily criticized by even the biggest fans of the main game. Many have pointed out that the Mirrors of Mystery are overpriced at $10, with each one only offering a replayable thirty-minute mission. However, while many may have preferred Borderlands’ major expansions over these pricey additions, the Mirrors themselves are not bad – they just take on the wrong format.


RELATED: How Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands Should Influence Borderlands 4

Mirrors of Mystery Could Have Made Perfect Seasonal Events

With nothing announced by Gearbox thus far, it seems unlikely that Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands will get seasonal events like Borderlands 3. In that game, players were able to enjoy special, limited time missions for the Halloween-themed Bloody Harvest and Revenge of the Cartels. Revenge of the Cartels in particular provided about the same level of content as a Mirror of Mystery, with players able to explore different wings of the visually appealing Villa Ultraviolet before battling a final boss.

The puzzle room of Villa Ultraviolet can be easily compared to the side objectives players get for the Mirrors of Mystery, like destroying all the elemental barrels in every room. Despite the similarities, players need to spend $10 for each Mirror of Mystery or buy the $30 Season Pass – a far cry from the free admission to Revenge of the Cartels. This is a shame, as if one Mirror of Mystery dropped for free every month, Gearbox would likely be getting extreme praise for top-notch support. Despite the Glutton’s Gamble DLC being a perfect fit for a Thanksgiving event, it is instead paid content, leading fans to view it in a negative light.

Mirrors of Mystery Would Have Been Fun Mini-DLCs Like Headhunter Packs

Still, since Gearbox is adding a new boss and fresh areas with each Mirror of Mystery, it is understandable that the developer would want to make some profit off the content. After all, the unique rooms and enemies would have taken time and resources to create. The main issue comes with the price of the DLC and the fact that the Mirrors are treated as the main post-launch content for the game.

Borderlands 2’s headhunter packs would have been a perfect example to follow, as if the Mirrors of Mystery were priced at $3 (or even $5) the community likely would not complain. Each one of the Mirrors could be introduced between a proper expansion, too, making sure that fans always have something new to do in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. The decision to replace major DLCs like Assault on Dragon Keep with the expensive Mirrors of Mystery is ultimately where the controversy comes from, as if the Season Pass included one or two proper expansions as well as some cheaper Mirrors, fans would likely be thrilled.

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands’ Mirrors of Mystery are fun, and the decision to add the content to the Chaos Chamber once it is completed was a great move that ensures the endgame mode remains fresh over time. Had they been priced more fairly or made into seasonal events, the discussion around them would likely be far more positive. Unfortunately, this was not the case, with the community remaining disappointed in this approach to DLC and wanting to see traditional expansions added instead.

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

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