Heavenly Bergh Apton

PUBLISHED: 10:31 19 May 2014 | UPDATED: 10:36 19 May 2014

Bergh Apton, May, EDP Norfolk

Bergh Apton, May, EDP Norfolk


Beautiful Bergh Apton is blessed with an abundance of lovely gardens – and this month the Garden of Eden will be appearing in the south Norfolk village.

Beautiful Bergh Apton is blessed with an abundance of lovely gardens – and this month the Garden of Eden will be appearing in the south Norfolk village.

Ancient creation stories will be played out in the gardens and glades of Bergh Apton, near Loddon – presented by actors including villagers and schoolchildren. God himself will appear, played in turn by the Bishop of Norwich, the Roman Catholic Bishop of East Anglia and Norwich’s Methodist superintendant minister.

Bergh Apton began hosting a popular triennial sculpture trail through village gardens in 1997. Three years ago it included a performance of Noah’s Ark, in which the Bishop of Norwich played God. This summer the single play has been expanded into an entire afternoon of drama, spread across four leafy locations, and performed on Saturday, May 24 and Sundays, June 1 and 8, by a cast of 50-plus from 11 neighbouring communities.

Norfolk storyteller Hugh Lupton has based the plays on medieval versions of Bible stories, shot through with modern-day issues, humour, characters and events.

In medieval times many craftsmen belonged to a trade body known as a guild, and in early summer each would perform a play based on a Bible story related to their trade. Carpenters acted out the building of Noah’s Ark, bakers retold the miracle of the loaves and fishes, and goldsmiths showed the three wise men bringing gifts to baby Jesus. The plays spanned the entire Bible, and were a mixture of entertainment, education, worship and celebration.

Norwich, in common with many important cities, had its own cycle of mystery plays and it is thought that the beautiful roof bosses of Norwich Cathedral represent characters and scenes from the plays. Those plays are now lost, but the Bergh Apton cycle is a 21st century reincarnation of the ancient tradition.

Each performance will begin with a chance to picnic in the Garden of Eden, and then watch the stories unfold in an exquisite garden, medieval church and churchyard or rural woodland.

“Each location is very different – from wild to cared-for, from ancient to modern, from open to enclosed,” says Bergh Apton’s Christopher Meynell, who is helping stage the event. “The first of the four plays is in a garden full of ancient, contorted trees, island beds and winding paths, with a view over water to the river Chet. And for those that decide to bring a picnic, they have the once in a lifetime chance to do so - in paradise!”

For the second play, the cast and audience move through the woods to take sanctuary in the church as the floods begin to rise around Noah. In a nearby glade, the Red Sea will part and musicians will lead the audience through a forest of young trees to see the birth and death of Jesus.

Book in to Bergh Apton

Tickets come with a map and memento art book as well as a programme; £15 for adults and £7.50 for under-16s.

The bring-your-own picnic begins at 12.30pm, with the first play starting at 1.30pm and the fourth expected to end around 6pm.

Most of the performance will be outside, and will go ahead whatever the weather.

Refreshments will be on sale during an interval.

With just 200 tickets available for each performance the days are all likely to be sell-outs and visitors must book well in advance on 01508 480696 or www.berghapton.org.uk

People power

Patrons of the Bergh Apton Mystery Play Cycle are the Bishop of Norwich, author Louis de Bernieres and BBC Look East presenter and EDP Norfolk columnist Susie Fowler-Watt.

Actors and musicians are from Alpington, Ashby St Mary, Bramerton, Carleton St Peter, Claxton, Framingham Pigot, Hellington, Kirby Bedon, Rockland St Mary, Surlingham, Thurton and Yelverton, as well as Bergh Apton. Children from Alpington and Bergh Apton, Thurton and Rockland St Mary primary schools are also involved.

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