Five Marys from Biblical times are to be the subject of a brand new play commissioned for this year’s Hostry Festival in Norwich.

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The show – called Five Marys Waiting – has been penned by actor and writer David Banks who said the play has been a year in the making, after a post-show discussion of the play Father and Son: Son and Father in the 2011 Hostry Festival sparked the idea of creating a show for strong women performers about women of the Bible.

The finished result is a story set in 44AD Jerusalem. For 11 years an impassioned Jewish sect has been without its founding leader. His followers are persecuted, scattered, arguing about his promise to return, and now their current leader has been arrested. Five Marys meet to explore their grief and belief, to remember, and to wait.

Mr Banks, who among his acting roles played the Cyber Leader in Doctor Who, appeared in Brookside, and is in the cast of the Hostry Festival show Hamlet: The Undiscovered Country, said: “My first thought was the play could have strong women as all of the characters, and I thought it would be fun if they were all called Mary. I also wanted to explore grief and bereavement and loss that all of us have to go through at some points in our lives, and how we have to get on with our own lives and that means laughing sometimes when you want to cry, and what love means in that context too.”

The five Marys are: Mary, mother of Jesus; Mary Magdalene; a Mary Mr Banks refers to as “Aunt Mary” who is believed to be a relation of Jesus’s mother; Mary, the mother of John Mark and whose house is thought may have been the scene of the Last Supper; and Rhoda, a servant of Mary, mother of John Mark, whom Mr Banks said was sometimes called Mary-Rose. In the show each Mary has an alternate name, Miriam, Madeleine, Salome, Maria and Rhoda respectively, and the plays looks at what happens as they wait in the room thought to have housed the Last Supper.

Mr Banks said: “It is not a devotional show specifically for people who belong to the church, it is basically a way of looking at ourselves. We are all waiting for something, that’s the state in which we live and so there are some kind of spiritual and philosophical questions there too. Do we live in a constant state of turmoil or anxiety? We tend not to. Sometimes we suffer terrible accidents and tragedies but life goes on and we simply become part of that life. The show applies to all of us who have something in view – some exams, a wedding, a funeral for example – but we do not stop living, we still continue to hurt and to laugh.”

Five Marys Waiting is at Norwich Cathedral’s Hostry on Sunday afternoon as part of a double bill with cellist Clare O’Connell and violinist Marcus Barcham-Stevens in concert. Tickets £10 – call 01603 218450. Visit www.hostryfestival.org

emma.knights@archant.co.uk

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