An Inn Keeper's Tale

An Inn Keeper's Tale Programme Cover

a short modern mystery play for Holy Week by Mike Sparks

March 2005

  • Wednesday 23rd at 8.00 pm
    Brookside Methodist Church, Cat Hill, East Barnet
  • Thursday 24th at 8.00 pm
    Camden Road Baptist Church, Hilldrop Road, Holloway
  • Good Friday 25th at 8.00 pm
    Finchley Methodist Church, Ballards Lane, Finchley

There are some pictures on the An Inn Keeper's Tale gallery page

The full programme [53K pdf] for this production is available from the archive

For script details visit the H & S Productions website


'The Shepherd and the Crook', a small inn, Jerusalem

Inn KeeperMike Sparks
WomanMary-Ann Ochota
Man in CrowdNeil Grace
Mary SalomeMary-Ann Ochota
Mary MagdaleneCatherine Walker
Man 1Stephen Sewell
Man 2Paul Sparks
Production Team
AuthorMike Sparks
DirectorLaurie Heatherington
Stage ManagerDavid Constable

Programme Notes

Mystery plays date back to medieval times, when groups of local people would perform sets of popular religious plays, telling key bible stories from creation, Jesus' life and death, to the last judgement.

From about the eleventh century, plays on biblical subjects were acted out in church by the clergy. These plays became very popular, and eventually moved out of the church into streets and marketplaces, to be performed in English, by lay people, on religious holidays.

The performers who took over from the clergymen were mostly members of craftsmens' guilds which were commonly known as 'mysteries', from the Latin 'mysterium', meaning 'handicraft' or 'office'. Thus, the plays they performed came to be known as 'mystery plays'.

The plays evolved to include topical social themes and comic scenes and jokes, with wildly extravagant costumes and special effects, although the emphasis remained on the message of God's relationship with man and on the promise of salvation through Christ.

The mystery plays would often be performed around the feast of Corpus Christi, which normally falls in mid-June, in an atmosphere of great festivity. The guilds performed on decorated carts called 'pageants', with each play being performed by a particular guild, on a separate cart. On the day of the festival the pageants travelled in procession through the town. Each pageant stopped at each street to perform its play, and then moved on, to be replaced by the next pageant, performing the next episode in the sacred drama. Although each play was fairly short, the complete cycle of plays took a very long time, sometimes more than three days!

A separate subgroup of plays telling the Easter Passion stories developed, and were often performed in Holy Week.

Alongside mystery plays there is a tradition of country drama 'mummers' plays. These folk dramas also involve travelling bands of local performers, and the stories, although at first glance appearing to be more secular, share the themes of resurrection and the triumph of good over evil with the passion and mystery plays.

Mike Sparks' modern piece draws on the traditions of both - a folk drama of the Easter story, acted by local people, travelling to different venues, and combining performance, celebration and worship.

Our next production is
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We are Three Sisters
Thur 25 to Sat 27 April 2024 at 7.30pm
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