St Just Ordinalia – An imaginative retelling of the historic mystery plays
We headed down to the Tin Coast to see the first of the three Ordinalia plays that are being staged in St Just this September.
This production of the Ordinalia is the first complete staging of the plays since the early 2000’s, where they were also performed in St Just. The Ordinalia is a cycle of three medieval plays, Origo Mundi (Origin of the World), Passio Christi (The Passion of Christ) and Resurrexio Domini (The Resurrection of Our Lord).
Find out more about the Ordinalia texts in our Out of the Ordinary piece here.
We entered into the plain-an-gwarry (playing places than were once found across Cornwall) and were immediately struck by the scale of the production. Surrounding the perimeter were high platforms with beautiful scenery depicting temples, palaces, heaven and hell.
The play began as we layered up against the St Just breeze. Pauline Sheppard’s script opens with a depiction of the community themselves putting on the play and we are introduced to several local characters who then popped up in roles during the play. Throughout, the character of The Ordinary (played by Mary Ann Bloomfield) keeps proceedings on track and after casting the parts – “You can’t all be devils!” – she kicks things off with the first Bible story: The Creation and Adam and Eve. The main stage was transformed with beautiful plants and trees, bringing colour to the Plen. We were also treated to the first entrance of the devils, let by a scarlet clad Beelzebub and towering and terrifying demon, as they emerged from the smoking mouth of Hell.
The action moved through the various Biblical tales, a particular highlight being Noah’s Ark. First an enormous boat was lifted on to the stage, followed by a procession of brightly coloured animals onto the stage. Gorgeously lit, the Ark proceeded to pitch and lurch as bolts of blue fabric streamed out into the audience. We also loved Moses, his masterful presence beaming out as he led his followers through the raging sea.
The St Just Ordinalia is an incredible coming together of the community and there are over 200 volunteers involved in the production. We were delighted to sit next to one volunteer who told us she was part of the team who had spent hours sewing costumes.
Accompanying the performers was a choir and live band, led by Vicky Abbot and Ben Sutcliffe. Each of the three plays is directed by a different creative team, overseen by Artistic Director Jason Squibb, a tremendous undertaking with the complexity of staging these productions and the sheer number of people involved.
The Ordinalia is a theatrical feast, fusing this medieval tale with community spirit and theatrical storytelling. We can’t wait to return to St Just to experience the two remaining plays over the next fortnight.
The St Just Ordinalia runs until 18th September 2021.
About St Just Ordinalia
The St Just Ordinalia Company bring a spectacular celebration of Cornish culture and heritage to St Just’s historic open air theatre site through staging the Ordinalia plays.