GESTURE AND LOOKS IN THE MARY PLAY FROM THE N-TOWN MYSTERY CYCLE
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In the summer of 2006, I happened to be visiting York in the North of England. One evening I walked into town through the old city walls and onwards toward the cathedral. There, on an open grassy area near the cathedral, the York mystery cycle (see Figure 1) was in full swing. What had begun in 1994 as an academic exercise to research the plays by reenacting them had become, once again, a community project. There was no charge for watching the plays which were being performed from the back of wagons. After a time the wagons moved on, just as they would have done in medieval times, to perform in a different part of the old city. The York mystery cycle is only one medieval mystery play which still survives. The N-town play, originally titled the Coventry Mystery Play, not only survives but has also been performed in the twenty-first century for example in Oxford and Toronto. When ancient plays are restaged in modern times many questions begin to arise. How were the plays staged? What did the characters wear? How did they act? More specifically what gesture and looks did they use to communicate? What gesture and looks did the characters in a fifteenth century religious play use? What did the gesture and looks communicate? How could these gesture and looks compare to those found in contemporary visual images and stories?