The Magdalene Mysteries
Vocal Motions Elastic Theatre presented their first ever stage adaption of the secret gospel of Mary Magdalene. A cross-cultural cast of actors, dancers, and singers embark on an epic journey through Mary Magdalene's depictions across history. Directed by Jacek Scarso.
The Magdalene Mysteries is an imaginary journey across the life of Mary Magdalene, created by fusing original historical documents. These include the four Gospels and the epistles of Peter amongst the canonical texts, and amongst the apocryphal ones, the Acts and the Gospel of Peter, the mysterious Gnostic text Thunder and the gospel associated to Mary Magdalene herself. Later sources include Ireneaus’ Against Heresies, Hmily 33 by Pope Gregory I, The Digby play of the Mary Magdalene and the medieval text The Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine.
Opening with Mary Magdalene as witness of the life of Christ, and as rival to Peter in the leadership of the Disciples, the piece moves to the medieval accounts of her journey to Marseilles and her thirty years of meditation there. Could it be at this point in her life that the so-called mysteries were revealed to her, inspiring her own controversial gospel? As her words are erased by the early Church, her tragedy unfolds before her eyes - the repentant sinner, here symbolised by her Shadows, becomes the icon by which she is remembered, and forgotten, in history.
The overall concept of The Magdalene Mysteries began to take shape in July 2007 in Grenoble. Vocal Motions Elastic Theatre’s had been invited there as UK representative to present our previous production Medea Made Medea as part of the 19th Rencontres du Theatre Europeen. Both productions are part of a trilogy, started in 2005 with Ophelia’s Song, revisiting classical female roles by stripping them of the connotations of passivity and powerlessness that tend to inform their traditional depictions.
We began researching on Mary Magdalene and her gospel, contrasting this with other canonical and apocryphal texts, comparing and adapting their different translations. The resulting fragments were then edited and dramatised to fit into the main narrative path - the life of Mary from her first encounter of Christ to the erasure of her gospel by the early Church. Song and contemporary dance were introduced as narrative, rather than decorative elements, to allow scenes to take place through these, to avoid creating new text additions - a principle that we kept throughout, in order to preserve the integrity of the original sources.
As a devised project, The Magdalene Mysteries wouldn’t have developed this far without the input of the company and dramaturg Rishi Trikha, in a collaborative process that continues to inform, shape, and renegotiate the structure of the work even at this very stage.
2008 Tour Dates:
The Space (London E14) Thurs 15th - Sun 18th May
St James’s Church, Piccadilly (London W1) Tues 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th June
Teatro Sala Uno (Rome) Sat. 21st June, 8pm
Southwark Playhouse (London SE1) Mon 14th - Sat 19th July 2008