To many, John Stape was one of Coronation Street’s most notorious crooks. So it’s fitting the actor who played the infamous ‘bad guy’ should play the role of the ultimate villain in this years’ York Mystery Plays.
Actor Graeme Hawely will play the role of the Devil in the summer spectacular of York Mystery Plays. In an exclusive interview with One&Other, Graeme spoke of his excitement for this “unique experience” as an “incredible, once in a life-time opportunity”.
“I’ve played bad guys before! But the classical nature of the Devil and the language in the piece is an opportunity that I’ve never had before. So in many ways it’ll be a first for me.”
The York Mystery Plays have been told by, and for, the people of York for hundreds of years. Honoured to be involved in such a tradition, Graeme says the “York Mystery Plays belong to the people of York, its every bit as much a part of the history as any other building in the city.” He says “so much love and care from the people of York and the people of Yorkshire has gone into that project, which I think will feed into how great it is.”
This year heralds a spectacular revival of the plays, with the performance being held in Museum Gardens, with the beautiful St Mary’s Abby as its backdrop. According to Graeme, the set is “incredible, it’s quite awe-inspiring,” he adds; “visually it’ll be extraordinary to look at. I’ve never done a show on this kind of scale before. I’ve certainly rarely been in a theatre with 1,400 seats before so that’ll be unique… [it’s] incredibly, incredibly exciting.”
However, as the subject of the Mystery Plays are Biblical stories, there is always a concern that potential audiences may not be convinced that the performance is for them. Graeme shatters those apprehensions, claiming that “it doesn’t matter if you’re somebody who regularly enjoys going to the theatre; it doesn’t matter if you’re somebody who is religiously inclined; it doesn’t matter if you’re somebody that knows the work of the Theatre Royal… I think it’s something that everyone should come and experience with an open mind, because they’re the greatest stories every told. It’s going to be an epic piece of theatre and I really do think that whatever your tastes are, it’s worth coming to look because it will cater for all.”
So what about the role? Graeme explains how he plans to depict the absolute epitome of evil; “The Devil in the Mystery Plays is there throughout orchestrating and manipulating people to try to work against God and Jesus.” But rather than depicting the Devil as an unearthly creature, Graeme has revealed that he will “try and make the performance human.” He says; “There’ll be elements of me in there to make it real and to make him connect with the audience.”
“I’m really excited about the whole experience; I think it’s going to be a wonderful couple of months and it’ll be something completely new for me. And it’ll be a challenge but as anything, the challenges in life are the things you look forward to, aren’t they!”
To sum up, Graeme says The York Mystery Plays are going to be “a wonderful, unique, fabulous, theatrical event.”