Ordinalia Performances Coming Back to St Just

The Ordinalia is set to return to The Plen-an-Gwary, St Just-in-Penwith – Photo by A. Tweedie

Plans unveiled for Ordinalia performances celebrating Cornwall’s history, culture and language – Solempnya Gonisogeth Gernewek!

A celebration of Cornwall’s distinct culture and identity will involve local communities and give training opportunities to young people when two local groups bring to life the Ordinalia.

Two respected Cornish organisations, theatre group – Kneehigh Theatre, and community group – St Just and District Trust Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) – will be interpreting the homecoming of the trilogy of historically significant medieval mystery plays over the next two years.

Cornwall Council is investing £100,000 into the project from its Ordinalia Nessa programme, with an additional £10,000 coming from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The grants will help the groups put forward additional bids for match funding from other sources.

Bob Egerton, Cornwall Council cabinet portfolio holder for economy, culture and planning said: “It’s fitting that we announce these exciting plans on St Piran’s day when we celebrate all things Cornish.”

“Cornwall’s culture, arts, language and heritage are at the heart of our identity. They are important to many residents as they help give us a real sense of place and community. They’re also important to our visitors and the economy as they make us distinctive, not just in the UK but globally.”

“These productions will bring about a new awareness of the Ordinalia, one of Cornwall’s cultural treasures. Kneehigh Theatre and St Just and District Trust CIO are sure to take very different approaches to interpreting the Ordinalia and I very much look forward to seeing how the two productions develop and engage with new audiences.”

The Ordinalia Nessa programme forms part of the Council’s investment into Cornwall’s creative industries which aims to boost the Cornish economy and encourage communities to get involved with what makes Cornwall’s distinct culture and identity so special.

The plays are written in the Cornish Language, Kernewek, and contain some of the oldest surviving stage directions in the world. The two projects will celebrate and bring new life to the plays through their productions which will feature both English and Cornish.

Kneehigh Theatre’s internationally renowned creative team will be working alongside the Hall for Cornwall’s Youth Theatre for their production which will take place in September 2020.

Kneehigh’s Charlotte Bond said, “Our project is inspired by the homecoming of the Ordinalia to Cornwall. It will speak about the historical cultural context and influence of the Ordinalia, creating an intellectually and emotionally challenging structure for artists and audience to explore, as well as an entertaining and hilarious show.”

The following year St Just and District Trust CIO will stage all three Ordinalia plays in the historic Plen an Gwari in St Just. The plays will be performed over the course of a fortnight, with drama and Cornish language workshops, creating a carnival like atmosphere.

Mary Ann Bloomfield, Chair of the St Just and District Trust CIO said: “We are grateful for the grant from Cornwall Council, which demonstrates their confidence in our team and will help us unlock our core funding from Arts Council England. We have been developing this ambitious and exciting project since we completed the funding and building of the Knut in 2014 – which was premised on our commitment to re-staging the Ordinalia cycle of plays in St Just.

There will be opportunities for local residents to learn about the Ordinalia and get involved in the productions. Kneehigh will be providing training opportunities for young people who are keen to work in the theatre sector, while St Just and District Trust CIO will be undertaking a large-scale community production inviting local people of all ages and abilities to take part as actors, singers, musicians, makers or backstage crew on their productions.

Carl Grose, one of Kneehigh’s project artists who will be working alongside Anna Maria Murphy and Simon Harvey on the project, said: “Supporting young performers is something very close to all of our hearts. It’s about more than just ‘being on stage’. It’s about working with others, it’s about self-confidence, it’s about inspiration. As opportunities for drama in schools dwindle, it’s vital we provide opportunity and pass on what we can. This is worth celebrating and protecting.”

The Ordinalia productions will complement Kresen Kernow’s ‘Out of the Ordinary’ exhibition which will run from Spring to Autumn 2020. The exhibition will feature one of only three remaining manuscripts of the Ordinalia, on loan from the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford.