The Coppergate Woman Comes To York This Summer

York Theatre Royal presents

The Coppergate Woman

Written by Maureen Lennon

Directed by Juliet Forster and John R. Wilkinson

York Theatre Royal, 30 July – 6 August

Discovered in a shallow pit by the river Foss, the remains of an unknown woman are displayed in a glass case in JORVIK Viking Centre in York. She is The Coppergate Woman – and she is being brought back to life in modern-day York this summer in York Theatre Royal’s latest community production.

Announcing the production of The Coppergate Woman, the theatre has put out the call for people to join the community ensemble of around 100, which will be led by a professional actor in the title role. People are wanted to work in a variety of roles both on stage and backstage – not just as performers and musicians but to work in stage management, wardrobe, lighting, props, marketing, fundraising and front-of-house.

The theatre choir will also be involved in the production, which takes place on the main stage from 30 July to 6 August. The theatre is working in partnership with JORVIK Viking Centre on the project.

Co-director Juliet Forster said: “The idea came from thinking about the importance of storytelling in our world and how do we draw people together. The Vikings were storytellers and I started thinking about the Vikings because it’s an area we as a theatre had not explored before and is a very interesting part of our history. I thought of Maureen Lennon to write the play as I booked quite an early show of hers into our Studio theatre after seeing it at Edinburgh. She felt the right fit for the play we wanted to do.”

Co-director John R. Wilkinson said: “It’s been five years since we last did one of our community plays. Given all that’s gone on in the past couple of years, it’s really necessary and heartening to be able to bring people together again. This time we’re digging into another realm of the city’s beloved history.”

Hull-born Maureen Lennon said: “I was approached to write a community project that engaged with York’s Viking history and how stories of our ancestors might bridge the gap between their world and our world right now.What could we learn from each other? It was always envisaged as a project that talked about community, togetherness, and the power of storytelling in our societies.

“I revisited the Jorvik Viking Centre in York when I first got commissioned. I used to love it when I was younger, growing up in Hull, but hadn’t been for years.That’s where the idea for The Coppergate Woman struck me. There was something so confronting about the fact that she is on display. A real example of two worlds meeting.

“She is in our world now whether she likes it or not. I wondered if she was lonely. I wondered who she had been and what she would think about me staring at her now. It felt intimate and yet so much about her was unknown. I wanted to give her the power to look at us just like I was looking at her in that moment. I wanted her to speak – although obviously in reality I’m glad she didn’t.”

The Coppergate Woman weaves myth with contemporary stories. The Vikings had an end of the world story in their mythology, Ragnarok, and in our tale the Coppergate Woman is awakened to try to help four people of York live through their own version of Ragnarok. It’s about hope and heartache and loss – and starting again, together.”

Visit the York Theatre Royal website for details of how to sign up for roles on and off stage in The Coppergate Woman.