The Players Of St Peter
Jenny Williamson as the Virgin Mary
Ever since my stint as the Innkeeper, turning the Holy Family away when they knocked without reading the ‘No Vacancies’ sign, I have been in thrall to the curious literal magic of the ancient Mystery Plays. So you can imagine my delight to discover the Players of St Peter performing at St George-in-the-East, Wapping this week, still carrying the torch for fifteenth century English drama after seventy years.
The Players were originally founded in 1946 in St Peter’s Cornhill in the first week of Advent, as a celebration of the return of Peace at the end of the Second World War, before moving to Holy Trinity, Sloane St in 1988 and then arriving at St-George-in-the-East in 2012. Jock Longstaff supervised most performances during the first twenty-five years, suceeded by Olive Stubbs, a member of the acting company who became director and has overseen every production for the last thirty years.
When Contributing Photographer Sarah Ainslie & I slipped into the back of the darkened church to watch the dress rehearsal, we were astonished by the glowing Biblical visions that arose before our eyes and even more amazed when a shining Angel drifted up the aisle to deliver us cups of tea and homemade spice cake, from a recipe adopted by the Players years ago and baked annually ever since.
Dazzled by God’s radiance and raptured by the sight of the Virgin Mary, we were puzzled by the presumed invisibility of Mary Magdalene in scenes where the Players appeared to address a presence composed only of thin air – until the friendly Angel bearing tea and cake helpfully explained that, ‘Mary Magdalene can’t be here this evening, she’s doing shift work.’
Robert Hayward as the Holy Lamb of God from the Coventry Shearmen & Taylors’ play
Mike Harding as King Herod and his lackeys from the Coventry Weavers’ play
Steve Brett as Jesus in the York Carpenters’ play
Stephen Wright, Anthony Sullivan & Robert Hayward as the three soldiers at the Crucifixion
Brian David as Almighty God and his Angels, Anthea Wormington & Jackie Withnail
Gill Taylor as Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness from the Chester Tanners’ Play
Olive Stubbs, Director of the Players of St Peter for thirty years in the role of Delight
Vicky Bettelheim, Judith Elbourne & Deborah Pollard as the three Marys
God in Splendour
The Players of St Peter
Photographs copyright © Sarah Ainslie
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