A MIGHTY WATER – Noah’s Ark retold
Bergh Apton’s 2011 Sculpture Trail, entitled The “Journey”, celebrated the creation and building of a Mediaeval church such as the one in Bergh Apton.
The Trail reflected The Journey taken by early pilgrims and builders of churches.
The culmination of “The Journey” was a Mystery Play, commissioned from the renowned storyteller and writer, Hugh Lupton and narrated by him. The cast, in the main, was drawn from the village.
A brainstorming session in November 2010 had set the tone of the Play. Idea after idea – what was Hugh to do – how on earth could he fit them into
the theme. Hugh achieved a beautifully nuanced Play, combining the ancient Bible story with the local context, combining the global condition and the
pressures of modern living, combining family life and the needs of the animal world. Humour was written in to the parts of every actor, ensuring his points were effectively made.
In the tradition of mediaeval mystery plays, the cast of A Mighty Water, was drawn in a cart by a heavy horse (thanks to Carl Harvey) through the
village to the church where an assemblage of audience waited, uncertain what to expect and what was expected of them. The church of Sts Peter & Paul standing firmly on its hilltop, played, admirably, the role of the Ark.
Hugh Lupton, as Narrator, immediately brought the story to life and the audience soon realized they were not there merely to provide a source
of laughter and reaction but also to play a critical role. As soon as Noah (Derek Secker) appeared, in dusty overalls, brandishing a
hammer and setting up his stepladder it was obvious that this was going to be a fun and truly modern interpretation of the story of the Ark. God
(Peter Kinght) ascended and gave Noah his orders. The TV weather station (John Sayer) warned us what was in store with rumbles of thunder
(Mick Hardesty, Jonny Parfitt). The stage moved, the cast moved, the audience moved so we could meet Noah’s wife (Liz Robinson) glued to
the box contrary to his family, all preparing for the deluge. God orders all (well masked with animals made during a Georgina Warne
workshop), including wasps, on to the Ark, the raven (Leo Wills) and dove (Anja Finegan) were dispatched & returned.
As the Bishop (who played God in the final performance) said in his sermon the following Sunday in the Cathedral “Once the dove returned with what looked like half a tree rather than a branch, the doors were opened and we returned from the ark to the dry land outside for the final act. It was a more united body which emerged, one in which people were lifted in spirit, engaged with each other, injected with new energy,” to learn of the sacrifice of two unicorns (Isabella & Rosie Stephens), who climbed up to meet God, causing many a tearful eye.
Derek Secker, who played the part of Noah, said afterwards “I was invited to take part in the Sculpture rail play and readily agreed – any activity to take my mind off my bereavement was welcome. I had no idea what was involved but after downloading the script and realising how funny the play was, I decided I would put my best effort into it. Having never acted before I was grateful for the advice received from David, the director. After the first two rehearsals I realised just how much I was enjoying it, and when the crowds turned up for the first performance and the standing ovation we received at the end was so exhilarating, the next performance would not come soon enough. All the cast were so helpful but I must admit it was nice to get my dirty overalls off."
And Diana W from Cringleford: As soon as I heard there was to be a mystery play written and narrated by Hugh Lupton at the Bergh Apton Sculpture Trail I made sure I got there. It was well worth the effort! Our Bishop as God (up a step ladder) set the scene. The wonderfully authentic Norfolk accents of Noah and his sons were a joy to the ear. The church became the ark; we all filed in as animals and were fed biscuits amid laughter and jokes so my spirits rose even higher. We were so fortunate to have Hugh Lupton using his story telling expertise in a village setting. It was clear that for the villagers it
was a unifying experience, which they willingly shared with us ‘outsiders’.
The Bergh Apton Mystery Play was made possible with financial support from Bergh Apton Community Arts Trust, The Anne French Trust and
The performances were filmed and edited by Philip Lewis-Jones and Andy Cottam for Banjo Films and DVDs produced (order your copy from the post office or the website).