Thursday 10th January 2014, St John’s College Chapel, Oxford
A specialist in medieval drama and a professional theatre director, Elisabeth Dutton is well known for her
productions of rarely performed early English plays, including the Croxton Play of the Sacrament. This sensational piece of late-medieval drama is the only host miracle play to survive in English. Its theatrical Jews are precursors to Marlowe’s Barabas and Shakespeare’s Shylock; its central image of the bleeding host highlights connections between theatre and liturgy, sacrament and symbol. The play’s textual transmission is curious and little is certain about the circumstances in which it was played. Attempts to recover the meanings that the play held for its early audiences, on the page or in performance, are more than usually vexed. What the play ostensibly means or tells may be in tension with what it shows, and witnessed performance is an essential tool for exploring this possibility.
As part of The Blood Conference in Oxford, Dutton will launch a professional production of Croxton with a specific view tounravelling the symbolic, liturgical, and racial significance of the play’s copious stage blood. Her staging and her paper ask: how can a greater understanding of medieval thinking on blood inform our awareness of what the play meant to its medieval (and subsequent early modern) audiences, and, similarly, what can a theatrical exploration of the play’s demands for the staging of bleeding hosts and bleeding bodies tell us about medieval thinking on the meaning and power of blood?
Review in the Oxford Times (16th Jan 2014, Angie Johnson)