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Tom Straszewski



Staging the York Mystery Plays in the 21st Century

 My work operates within the performance and critical tradition of site-specific theatre, to ask how bricolage can be used to adapt the York Mystery Plays. This is a novel approach to the Plays, which makes explicit their nature as momentary assemblages of communities, memories, sites, texts, and

images. My methodology positions me as a bricoleur, who:
* works with what’s immediately available at the site;
* creates the performance through tinkering and bodging, drawing elements together;
* and in doing so, transforms these constituent parts, without losing sight of their original form.

Through three productions, I explore how this theatre-making process uses physical and metaphorical frames to isolate or highlight these constituent parts. I ask how existing physical frames can be incorporated to tell site’s narrative, and in using these frames, how these reify the
ways in which communities, stories and identities are included or excluded from performance.

The first two productions are:

PRODUCTION ONE – York Mysteries @ Home

I created a series of short filmed performances, adapting the Mysteries to the specific qualities of my own home, as a response to the constraints of lockdown. I found that my performances required a physical or conceptual frame, as a way of delineating between the lived space and the theatrical
one. It draws on existing approaches to domesticity and the home as a performance space, and the home-working of the medieval craftspeople who produced the original Plays.

PRODUCTION TWO- Heaven and Earth in a Little Space

In this production, I turn outwards to ask how theatrical bricolage can be applied to a larger site and community. Working in All Saints North Street, York, the play investigates the pageants depicting the Virgin Mary, reflecting the church as a continuing site of Marian devotion. This also reflect the physical frames of the building, in particular the medieval squint, through which a medieval anchorite saw both the life of the church and visions of the Virgin Mary.
A final performance is planned for late 2022, developing the devising processes used in the previoustwo productions.



I hold a BA in Viking Studies (University of Nottingham) and MAs in the Archaeology of Buildings (York) and Theatre: Writing, Directing and Performance (also York). My background in buildings archaeology directly informs my approach to directing, focused on the interplay of site and text.

I am the Pageant Master for York Mystery Plays 2018 and 2022 (, an assistant director for the 2016 York Minster Mystery Plays, and am currently adapting and directing the Lincoln Mystery Plays ( at Lincoln Cathedral. I work closely with the
York International Shakespeare Festival (including curating the pop-up Dogrose Theatre) and York Shakespeare Project (Sonnet Walks; Merry Wives of Windsor; Two Noble Kinsmen).

I am also artistic director of Bronzehead Theatre, a theatre group specialising in adapting classic texts to historic sites. Productions include Shakespeare in pubs (Henry IV: A Pub Wake) and gardens (Richard II), Dracula in an abandoned house, a Dickens travelogue in parks (The Lazy Tour), and Ben Jonson's The Alchemist in a gin shop attic.

Profile at


Research interests

Research Interests

Site-specific theatre; community theatre and amateur performance; medieval theatre, in particular the York Mystery Plays; adaptation for the stage; critical heritage studies.





Performance Review: Angels and Demons (2020), performed by the Department of Theatre, University of South Dakota," ROMARD: Vol. 58 , Article 5.
Available at:

External Activity

External Activity

Conference Talks

Framing the Domestic in the York Mystery Plays (TaPRA Conference, Liverpool Hope University/Online, 2021)

Playing with the Medieval (Medieval Week, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Lincoln, 2021)

York Mysteries @ Home (Place and Communities Conference, University of York/Online, 2020)

The Fall of Lucifer: shared sensations within domestic online theatre (TFTI Postgraduate Symposium, University of York/Online, 2020)

Doing it in the streets: the 2018 York Mystery Plays as street theatre (International Symposium on Mysteries Plays and Popular Theatre)

Painting the Town Red: The Crucifixion and Death of Christ (Société Internationale pour l'étude du théâtre médiéval/Records of Early English Drama North-East, 2016)

Palimpsests and performances of the Crucifixion and Death of Christ (Performance in the Changing City: Taking the Plays to the Next Generation, 2015)


Tom Straszwski

Contact details

Mr Tom Straszewski
PhD by Creative Practice