In 1210 Pope Innocent the Third issued an edict forbidding clergy from acting on a public stage. This had the effect of transferring the organisation of the dramas to the town guilds. The vernacular texts replaced the Latin, non biblical passages were added, and the characterisation became more elaborate. The plays could be presented with elaborate sets and 'special effects', but could also be stark and intimate. To capture the attention of the audience the plays were often noisy, and sometime quite bawdy.
Two formats of staging have been documented. One format was to present the performances on a decorated pageant cart that moved around the city to allow different crowds to watch each play, as well as providing actors with a dressing room and stage. The other format is often referred to as 'space and scaffold'. Scaffold and staging would be erected in a particular location, with the different heights of staging used to denote heaven and earth.
The Norwich Medieval Mystery Play is being presented in Norwich Castle Keep and we will be using staging and various scenic elements to fuse both pageant cart and space and scaffold formats.
The first image below depicts an English pageant wagon
Sharp - A Dissertation on the pageants (1825)
The second image shows a depiction of a mystery play in Metz during the middle ages in space and scaffold format.
Auguste Migette (1802-1884) from Metz Immediate (1850)
This week we met with artist and set builder Andrew Stevenson, to go over drawings of scenic elements that he will be working on.
There is an interesting correlation to the trades of the medieval town guilds who would have met and discussed similar plans, budgets and timescales, leading up to their performances.