IT HAS been the hottest June for 40 years, and forecasters are predicting a “blowtorch” summer; but, at Bishop Auckland, there will be snow every week until September.
The artificially generated flakes are an addition to the Kynren open-air pageant (Arts, 8 July 2016), which starts its second season tomorrow against the backdrop of the former palace of the Bishops of Durham, Auckland Castle.
The lights-and-music spectacular races through 2000 years of English history in 90 minutes, and, when the plot reaches the Christmas 1914 soccer kick-about between British and German troops in no man’s land, snow from a special generator falls convincingly across both the tableau and the audience.
Jonathan Ruffer, the City financier behind the planned £70-million transformation of the palace and the surrounding town of Bishop Auckland into a world-class tourist destination, described the 2017 season as “bigger, better, and brighter” than last year’s inaugural programme, which, he said, had been the “dress rehearsal” for the show which he hoped would last for the next 200 years. From this year, the show will operate on the previous year’s proceeds.ELEVEN ARCHESCharge: Queen Boudicca and her daughter ride towards the Roman forces
The Kynren chief executive, Anne-Isabelle Daulon, told a preview audience last Saturday: “Last year, we did something crazy. We learned to fly as we were building the aircraft when we were already up in the air.”
Much of the credit goes to the 1500 volunteers — 500 more than last year, ranging in age from five to 80, and including entire families — who act out the 29 tableaux. New characters include the Venerable Bede; the 13th-century founder of Auckland Castle, Prince-Bishop Antony Bek; and Cardinal Wolsey. One scene of a pit disaster includes the miners’ hymn Gresford, recorded in Durham Cathedral by colliery bands from Ferryhill and Spennymoor.
There is also an expanded animal cast including 34 horses, a flock of sheep, a gaggle of geese, and two Durham shorthorn cows.
A new connecting narrative has been recorded by Kevin Whately, a Northumberland-born actor, who told the cast during a visit to the set that he found the show “absolutely staggering”. He said: “Seeing it in the flesh is astonishing, and it’s a fabulous thing for the north-east. It’s a thrill to be a part of it.”
Adult tickets are priced from £25 to £55, and children’s from £19 to £41. The are 17 showings on Fridays and Saturdays, from 1 July until 16 September; a Sunday show is to be held on 27 August.