The following was posted on the Chaucer Listserve, but it should be of
interest to the REED listserve members as well.

-----Original Message-----
From: Lee, BS, Brian, Mr [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Wednesday, March 03, 1999 8:50 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Chester plays

Towards the end of last year a perfomance of Chester plays in
London was advertised on Chaucernet.  Prof V. Houliston of Wits Univ.
consequently attended, and wrote the following account in our local
Medieval newsletter.  Subscribers to Chaucernet may be interested.

                      Here comes the chopper
                              Chester Plays

          Victor Houliston, Department of English
                University of the Witwatersrand

On a tip from Brian Lee, I sought out a performance of plays from the
Chester Cycle on a dismal London evening in early December.  They
were produced in St Clements' Church, Eastcheap, the original  of
"Oranges and Lemons".

The acting troupe, the Players of St Peter, was formed in 1946 to
perform annually at Christmas to celebrate the end of World War II.
They have built up a tradition of using the mediaeval mystery cycles
for a Christmas pageant.  This time they took them from the Chester
cycle, using _The Creation and Fall_, _The Ten Commandments_, Balak
and Balaam_ and then plays connected with Christmas, culminating in
_The Offering of the Kings_.  The _The Ten Commandments_ and _Balak
and Balaam_ episodes were meant to prefigure the Annunciation, it

The performance itself was of a semi-professional quality, with some
splendidly rendered medieval songs accompanying the action.  Next to
me sat a couple from All Souls', Langham Place, the famous
evangelical church  of John Stott.  They proved to be great
enthusiasts for this annual event , and encouraged me and all those
sitting nearby to take an active part in the play, hissing at the
devils and sighing over the Blessed Virgin.  Are the roots of
pantomime in mystery cycles?  My evangelical neighbours also remarked
how feeble,  in comparison, are the contemporary church's attempts at
dramatising her message.

Here was a timely reminder that medieval art is not confined to the

Brian S. Lee
Department of English
University of Cape Town
Rondebosch, 7700
South Africa