ANOTHER VIEW : A God for the modern audience

Share
Related Topics
I have been called a pagan and a radical feminist, foolish and naive. My crime? Casting a woman in the role of God in the mystery plays to be staged at York's Theatre Royal.

I certainly did not set out to create a controversy. I didn't even set out to cast a woman in the role. The original intention was to have a professional actor to play God. Then we started auditioning for the amateur actors who get involved in the play - 120 local people take part. At the auditions I met Ruth Ford, who runs a local shop. She struck me as someone who would bring a tremendous amount from her own life to the role - compassion, humour, joy, love and care - all the attributes one might hope to find in God. I did wonder about whether she could embody God's wrath, but then I thought wrath can't just be a man's domain.

The way I see the role played is all about the personality of the person playing it - not about their gender. There won't be any feminising to the text, which is based on the original 13th-century text, and was revived in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain, and has been performed in York every four years or so ever since. In the past, God has been played by a child, and by a disembodied voice - this is just another way of interpreting the role.

The criticism we have had from some churchmen seems to be much more to do with their internal politics than our play. It seems that seeing a woman in this role at this particular time is making them ask fundamental questions about their church and their beliefs. It is a sensitive time for the church as it wrestles with its own internal problems over women, and I'm afraid we have touched a nerve somehow with this casting.

The task for Ruth in playing this part has to be to make people ask questions, about themselves, about their assumptions, their pre-conceptions about how they see God, and even how they see men and women. I'm not interested in maintaining a childlike illusion of God as an old man with a long white beard. The essential thing is to make this powerful medieval play as accessible and relevant as possible to a modern audience.

I'm sorry if people have been offended by the choice of Ruth for this part - a lot of people have been delighted by it. I hope nobody will let their worries stop them coming to York Theatre Royal to experience her playing in the Mystery Plays. I would reassure people that we do take our responsibilities very seriously, and we are not out to shock or upset people. I hope that audiences will come with an open mind, and will leave feeling uplifted and inspired by the power of the play and the performance.

The writer is artistic director of York Theatre Royal.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough, Cam...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Benedict Cumberbatch attends a special screening of his latest film The Imitation Game  

Benedict Cumberbatch race row: What's the actual difference between 'coloured' and 'person of colour'?

Matthew Norman
Pressure is growing on Chris Grayling to abandon the Government bid to advise Saudi Arabia on running its prisons (Getty)  

What in sanity’s name is Chris Grayling doing in the job of Justice Secretary?

Matthew Norman
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy