A study into the staging of Mystery Cycles and Passion Plays in 21st Century Britain at a time of religious and social change within British Society. A comparison of Medieval and Contemporary productions, with a consideration of the potential future for this art-form.
Potts, C. (2014) A study into the staging of Mystery Cycles and Passion Plays in 21st Century Britain at a time of religious and social change within British Society. A comparison of Medieval and Contemporary productions, with a consideration of the potential future for this art-form., no. 56.
It is widely believed that for many years British theatre has developed out of an historical connection with the Christian faith, but that this historically strong relationship has grown apart over time. By examining the rationale for the performance of traditional 'religious' or 'Christian' drama this study seeks to ascertain whether this distance is evidenced in practice. This dissertation will consider the origins of the connection between Christianity and theatrical performance through the staging of medieval Mystery Cycles, and compare findings with Mystery Cycles and Passion Plays which have been staged in Britain in the 21st Century. The Mysteries are cycles of plays whose subject matter were the narrative events of the history of the world, as detailed in the Bible. They begin with the character of God creating the world, and cover the significant events of the Bible right through to a portrayal of the Final Judgement found in The Revelation of John. Passion Plays are also based upon biblical events, focusing on the events of Jesus' Passion, the final week of his life culminating with his crucifixion and resurrection. The Prologue is a general introduction to the dissertation. It gives the reader information regarding some of the existing research into church attendance in Britain as well as sharing examples of research regarding the purpose of the portrayal of Christ in the visual arts. It briefly explains the position of the researcher in relation to the field of study and gives a detailed outline of the direction of the dissertation. Act One will consider the historical origins of the Mystery Cycle. As a result of evidence and opinion gathered from a range of academic sources, a viewpoint will be established which will detail where medieval Mystery Cycles come from, how they were staged and why they were performed. The latter is of primary significance to the study. Following on from this, Act Two will look at contemporary performances staged in Britain in the last five years, with a focus on two particular cities, York and Edinburgh. Once again the research carried out allows for an understanding of the sources of production and how and why they were performed. As a result of this, Act Three compares each aspect of the research; the source, the method and the rationale, for the staging of the Mystery Cycles and Passion Plays, with any findings being discussed and evaluated. The Epilogue then concludes the research by considering the future prospects for this genre of theatre.