By David Klausner
Medieval English Theatre, Vol.30 (2008)
Introduction: Through all his work on the editing of the Chester Plays and the county’s documentary records, his studies of the urban background to the Plays’ presentation, their theology, and their literary qualities, David Mills has always had a foot in the theatre as well. I have fond memories of being shanghaied at the last moment for the Chester Balaam and Balaak pageant in 1983 with virtually no rehearsal, and being given such concise and clear direction by David that rehearsal seemed unnecessary. To honour David’s involvement in and his support for performance, I want to investigate the staging of the Crucifixion in early British drama — not its theological centrality to the Christian religion, but explicitly its staging and the problems presented in the public recreation of a horrific act of torture and murder. What difficulties faced those involved in mounting such a play and how were they faced? What decisions had to be made, and what can the play-texts as well as the records of performance tell us about the ways in which these problems were solved? Although the scholarly literature on most of the plays is extensive, no discussion of the Crucifixion pageants has looked at them broadly and comparatively, and rarely from the aspect of stage technique.