New Perspectives on Urban Entertainment in the Middle Ages

29th Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies

Fordham University, Lincoln Center, New York City: Saturday, April 4, 2009

Theresa Coletti, The Chester Cycle and its Afterlives: Medieval Urban Drama in Post-Apartheid South Africa

A wealth of evidence in fiction, film, and professional, academic, and community-based theater attests that medieval cultural performances still compel the attention of contemporary audiences. This paper examines one such contemporary incarnation: the recent South African adaptation of the Middle English Chester Cycle known as the Yiimimangaliso “Mysteries.” A joint endeavor by British theatrical professionals and indigenous performers from South African local choirs, the Yiimimangaliso “Mysteries” triumphed in London’s West End in 2002 and won international acclaim for its colorful and exuberant rendering of medieval, urban biblical theater through the verbal and musical idioms and the visual icons of post-apartheid South Africa. What is at stake, aesthetically and politically, in this bold act of cultural appropriation? What light does this unlikely afterlife of the Chester cycle shed on medieval traditions of cultural performance? What is gained—and lost—in such dramatic reinventions

Last modified: Nov 6, 2008
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