From the York Mystery Plays to a starring role on the BBC: What Ruby did next…

11 Dec 2016 @ 5.40 pm
| News

The many thousands who watched the York Mystery Plays this summer know all about Ruby Barker’s talent.

Soon TV viewers up and down the country will know too, after Ruby Barker landed a starring role in a BBC series.

Armed with these photographs by Duncan Lomax, Ruby, who played Mary in the Mystery Plays in the Minster, left York for London in search of more acting work.

And it didn’t take long for her to find it.

“After the Mystery Plays I went to Birmingham to film an episode in the BBC’s Doctors, then went to London,” she told YorkMix.

“I had literally been in London two days before I received a call from my agent telling me I just landed a recurring role in the CBBC’s award-winning WolfBlood, filming in Newcastle. So I packed my things and stayed with my mum in Worcestershire until I joined the cast for at the end of October.”

We asked Ruby to tell us more about her theatrical journey so far…

The photographer

duncan-lomax-headshotYork photographer Duncan Lomax of Ravage Productions first met actress Ruby Barker when she was chosen to play the young Mary in York Minster’s epic production of the Mystery Plays.

As official photographer to the Minster, he then took hundreds of pictures of her and the rest of the cast.

“One of the nice things that came out of the production is a lasting community of cast, crew and production team who have stayed in touch,” he said.

“So it was easy to arrange a shoot with Ruby, and for her to feel relaxed about it as she knew me from the other work I’d done.

“I’m so glad we got a chance to work together as we’re both really pleased with the shots, and it looks like Ruby is headed for big things.”

‘The Mystery Plays were great – but stressful’

‘I learned a lot’ – Ruby
‘I learned a lot’ – Ruby

So Ruby: how did it all begin?

I went to dancing schools whilst growing up in Glasgow, which was where most of my time at the weekends were spent and my mum always took me to the ballet over Christmas. I loved performances and the stories they brought to life through dance. I kind of stumbled upon acting when I landed the lead in a television advert for the Royal Bank of Scotland through school.

I didn’t have the opportunity to study drama at high school until I moved to York. In 2014 I was volunteering in Tanzania with Raleigh International – at the time I had just completed my AS Levels at school. Whilst I was out there, I had a lot of time to think about what I wanted to do in the future which is when my eyes set upon becoming a professional actress.


What was your first big role?

Prior to the Mystery Plays I had one acting credit. I had completed my A Level in drama at school but took a gap year to try to get as much amateur dramatics experience in York’s theatre scene as I could.

My first role was playing Mercy and Titivillus at the National Centre for Early Music in a medieval comedy called Mankind. This was was HIDden Theatre Company and directed by local scholar and theatre practitioner Laura Elizabeth-Rice.

My Grandad came all the way from Glasgow to watch me in the play, this was the first time he’d seen me act on a stage, which made it very special.

Playing Mary in the York Mystery Plays
Playing Mary in the York Mystery Plays

Then your big break…

I heard about the Mystery Plays over Facebook. I went to the community meeting which was held before the auditions took place. Not many people know this but I was so excited to go to the meeting and find out more about the production, I actually rocked up to St William’s College (where it was held) three weeks early, then again the next week and eventually went on the right day the week after!

How did you get the part?

In my audition, I performed one of my monologues from Mankind, and had a call-back to sing a week later. Now, I cannot sing, the idea of singing on stage is my absolute nightmare!

Not being able to sing seriously limits the songs that I can passably hold a tune on. I opted for Le Jazz Hot, from one of my favourite musicals Victor Victoria, starring Julie Andrews. At the time, I didn’t have the slightest inclination that I was going to be cast as Mary, maybe I wouldn’t have chosen Le Jazz Hot as the most appropriate song but I landed the role.

Ruby Barker and Mark Comer when they were revealed as Mary and Joseph in the York Mystery Plays in the Minster this summer. Photograph: Duncan Lomax / Ravage Productions
Ruby Barker and Mark Comer when they were revealed as Mary and Joseph in the York Mystery Plays in the Minster this summer. Photograph: Duncan Lomax / Ravage Productions

How did you find the Mystery Plays?

The Mystery Plays was a great experience overall. I learned a lot about what I do and don’t like in a semi-professional setting, made lots of friends and contacts within the industry.

It wasn’t easy for anyone, we had eight shows a week for five weeks. If I was getting paid it would have been a lot more endurable, for sure, but community spirit and ‘all that jazz’…

What was the hardest part?

The singing was hard, I felt very vulnerable but the singing angels would let me join them to warm up before every show. One of the ladies in the cast was very kind and understanding, she bought me singing lessons on the run up to the show as I couldn’t afford them at the time, I’d just left home and was working in a front of house job.

One of the ladies I shared a stage with as Mary, was a professional back in the day, had me round at her house rehearsing and directing me for my auditions following the Mystery Plays.

I try to look on the bright side of the Mystery Plays, but it was not easy for anyone, I found it very stressful, it’s a big commitment and I’m not sure I’ve recovered from it to do another York community show anytime soon.

What happened next?

Since finishing the Mystery Plays I have signed with a very well established agency, played a lead guest role as Shelley Williams, a young carer in the BBC’s Doctors [transmission date: February 3 2017], cast as new re-occurring character Daisie in WolfBlood.

I was also on the brink of landing another role in a new play by a very well-known writer in Newcastle but unfortunately this clashed with other commitments.

I hope to do more theatre in the near future but I am trying to get my face out there first, in hope that theatre roles will come in abundance if I’m seen on television.

I would love to come back to York to film something or perform in the York Theatre Royal.

Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck in Gone Girl
Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck in Gone Girl

Finally, what would be your dream roles?

My ultimate ambitions are to perform with the Royal Shakespeare Company as Cleopatra and Viola and play ‘M’ in James Bond. I would also loved to play Lara Croft in a re-make of Tomb Raider, I love spy films and crime/thriller novels like Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Murder House by David Ellis and James Patterson.

I really love the film Belle, by Misan Sagay which follows the tale of Georgian aristocrat Dido Elizabeth Belle, the mixed-race niece of the Lord Chief Justice, Earl of Mansfield as he works on the Zong Massacre case which contributed to the abolition of the slave trade.

I would die to play Dido in a stage adaptation, that is a big goal of mine.