High Force Research employee James Masters is treading the boards once again in Bishop Auckland’s Kynren production – the UK’s most spectacular open-air live show.

After completing a Chemistry for Europe degree at Surrey University (involving a year’s industrial placement in Paris), and getting married, southern-born James moved up north with his wife, and has now been working at our Bowburn laboratory for 16 years. After starting in the lab, James moved through various roles including Good Manufacturing Practice and Quality Control before taking on his current position as Project Co-Ordinator in which he oversees the dispatching of material for HFR’s main client accounts.

Outside of work, James (with his wife and two children!), is now involved in Bishop Auckland’s epic Kynren production. The production involves 1,500 volunteers (aged 5-80 years old) making up the cast, tech team, pyrotechnics, costume department and ‘experience team’. The show is headed up by renowned live event director, Steve Boyd who has contributed to 13 consecutive Summer and Winter Olympic ceremonies spanning Barcelona ’92 to Rio 2016.

We caught up with James to find out how he got involved, how he fits it into his busy schedule and whether or not he would do it again…

How did you get involved in Kynren?

I heard about the production when I was volunteering as a room steward at Auckland Castle and was immediately intrigued so looked into it further. In the end myself, my wife and two children got involved! We were part of the first production last year and volunteer this year too.

James backstage with wife Rachael and daughters Hannah and Rebekah

James backstage at rehearsals with wife Rachael and daughters Hannah and Rebekah

Did you have any previous experience of acting or theatre?

No, not really! Only through school, and Primary School at that!

As one of 1,500 volunteers, what’s your role in the show?

My role is always changing, everyone’s role is mixed and matched. We’re put into teams and each have at least four roles, so I’ve been Joseph of Aramathea, a Roman Centurion, English soldier, Georgian harvester and a miner to name a few. I fight with a sword, shoot flaming arrows and walk on water! Luckily there is no speaking – everything is done to a soundtrack which makes it a bit easier.

James as Joseph of Arimathea

James as Joseph of Arimathea in Kynren (credit Eleven Arches)

When did you begin rehearsals and how often do you rehearse?

We started rehearsals before Easter, and they are full on – to start with they’re around 4 nights per week, with rehearsals going on till 10pm but now we’re doing weekends too.

Would you do it again?

I would definitely do it again – every year! I’m considering acting more too, I’m looking to get involved in a play with my local church – a passion play – which we’re hoping will be repeated yearly.

James as Joseph of Arimathea

James as Joseph of Arimathea in Kynren (credit Eleven Arches)