The Chester Plays

The chance to see part of the cucle of medieval mystery plays known as The Chester plays was too good to pass up. After all, how often can you see three plays before 10:30 in the morning?
We started with “The Harrowing of Hell”, then moved to “The Resurrection” and finally to “The Ascension”. Staged on wagons on the grounds of Victoria University (U of T), the whole series took three days, involved 300 actors and many acting companies, most from universities across North America. The weather was beautiful and the diehard fans could settle in for the day and be entertained.
This format of production was more casual than the Lincoln mystery plays we saw a couple of summers ago, but still fascinating. It is easy to imagine how powerful these pays were in the days when this was the only entertainment (unless you counting a hanging or bear bating) available.
Definitely an acquired taste and one that might be developed after a few classes on the subject.


About cathyriggall

Theatre junkie, who thinks live theatre is the ultimate form of living on the edge. You never know what will happen when an actor steps on the stage.
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One Response to The Chester Plays

  1. Keith says:

    Ah, there's nothing like a good harrowing!I find the mysteries more interesting as showing what Shakespeare and his generation grew out of than entertaining in themselves.However, I did enjoy the reflection of the guilds that put on the original playlets and current concerns of the time that showed up in both the Lincoln and Chester versions. (For instance, in the Harrowing of Hell", after Jesus has beaten back Satan and taken Hell's occupants to Heaven, an innkeeper who watered her beer arrives and is condemned to Hell for all eternity – no relief for such a heinous crime!)By the way, I believe Trinity has booked a bear-baiting for next summer and University College is looking at staging a hanging to compete.

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