Page 9 - cr58
P. 9

Priest: He is not here. He has risen  could go within the confines of the  in Spain and travelling shows in Japan
          again as He foretold. Go announce, that  English church by around 1300.   also predate the English adaptation. The
          He is risen from the dead.           In parts of Europe performances  word ‘pageant’ originally referred to
            The Priest and choirboys then   within the church lingered until the  the movable scaffolding upon which the
          turned to the congregation to lead them  sixteenth century. Spain, for example,  play was presented. Afterwards the
          in a joyful Easter hymn.          appears to have been rather rigid in this  word was applied to the play itself. The
                                            regard. The first recorded performance  carriages often included two tiers, with
          Christian drama - within and
          beyond its own walls              outside of the Spanish church occurred  the performers using the lower level to
                                            in a nobleman’s hall in the mid-   dress and the upper as the performing
            The size of the performance area
                                            fifteenth century.                 area.
          within churches expanded to
                                               There were two ways of presenting  The medieval play - technical
          accommodate larger casts of
                                            plays outside the church. The first was  and ornamental aspects
          performers. Sometimes areas formerly
                                            static, with the venues arranged in a
          occupied by the congregation were                                       Tragedy and comedy were
                                            semicircle (the play of St. Appolonia,
          incorporated into the performing area.                               combined to an extent not previously
                                            c.1460) or in a straight line (the Passion
            The altar included a crucifix and                                  achieved. A tragedy, perhaps the Easter
                                            play at Valenciennes in 1547). The
          was the focal point. To its right, from                              story, might include comic characters
                                            second method, known as
          the priest's position facing the audience,                           such as merchants and conclude with a
                                            ‘perambulating’, included an early form
          was Heaven, to its left was Hell.                                    happy ending. Comic shepherds were
                                            of theatre-in-the-round with the houses
          Prophets spoke from the pulpit.                                      portrayed in Christmas plays. Workmen
                                            (settings) grouped round a central place
          Situated each side of the central nave                               at the Tower of Babel were also given
                                            and the audience on raised tiers all
          were the sites utilised as scenes of the                             comic dialogue. Satan himself was
                                            round. The remains of such
          play. Common examples were the                                       often the most comic character of them
                                            amphitheatres can be seen in Cornwall.
          Temple at Jerusalem, the palace of                                   all. His attendant devils mimed
                                            In both cases, action could progress
          Pilate, Herod’s palace, Bethlehem,                                   farcically and danced acrobatically in a
                                            from one house to another as the script
          Nazareth and the tomb of the                                         spirit of comic byplay. Their masks
          Resurrection. Various names were                                     were as frightening as any worn in the
                                               In England, it was very popular for  classical era. It is likely that the comic
          applied to these sites such as mansions,
                                            a scene to be mounted on a cart. A  touch was largely the invention of the
          houses and booths. Between them was
                                            succession of carts would then make  travelling performers rather than any
          the platea (playing-place). This space
                                            their way throughout the town and the  deliberate study of classical comedy.
          could represent any place the writer
                                            actors would repeat their parts at the  Writing 200 years later, Shakespeare
          chose it to be.
                                            various stopping points.           took to heart this balancing act of
            It is unclear whether the move to
                                               Once plays had moved outside the  comedy within tragedy.
          outside the church was entirely due to
                                            church, they might be taken over by
          the scale of the productions. Perhaps                                   Given the variety of settings and
                                            trade guilds. Scenes could be
          licentiousness emerged and rendered                                  performers that were essential to
                                            contributed by a closely linked guild.
          the content unfit for the church. The                                medieval theatre, the medieval plays
                                            For example, Noah's Ark, might be the
          twelfth-century Anglo-Norman play                                    were not simple constructs. Significant
                                            responsibility of shipwrights, the Tower
          Adam was certainly set outside the                                   direction and control was required to
                                            of Babel by carpenters and Jonah and
          church with the church doors used as a                               harmonise the working of machinery,
                                            the Whale by the fishmongers.
          background from which God and the                                    concealed stage traps and acrobatic
          principal actors came and went. It was  The Pageant was an English form of  movement. Lowering God and angels
          also one of first liturgical plays not to  a play on wheels, but they didn’t invent  by cranes to the stage amidst the
          be performed in Latin. It seems that  the concept. Thespis the Greek is the  acrobatic frivolities of devils and the
          plays had gone about as far as they  earliest known exponent. Carriage plays  use of a Hell-Mouth to swallow the

          The ‘straight line’ setting for the Passion Play at Valenciennes, 1547. The lake and boat represent St Peter. Note the Hell - Mouth.

                                                                                       CINEMARECORD 2008     9
   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14