Thursday 27 October 2016

Morality Play

If I could take only one book with me to a desert know the question?
People usually take the Bible or Shakespeare's Complete Works or Middlemarch, War and Peace...Harry Potter...the complete get the drift.
They are anticipating a long stay.

Foolish or not, I would opt for Barry Unsworth's novella Morality Play. 
Set in the late fourteenth century it tells the tale of a wandering group of players. Actors these days are a different species; they earn the biggest bucks, are highly esteemed  and enjoy global celebrity status. We perhaps too often live our lives vicariously through them...I speak for myself...
Their medieval predecessors were social pariahs, itinerant minstrels who trailed their few possessions from village to village, performed in makeshift sets and were often chased out of town. Biblical sketches, ie scenes from the bible and pageants, made up their staple repertoire.

In Morality Play a poor young scholar, a man in Holy Orders, and "well favoured though short of stature ...with nothing but Latin to recommend" him stumbles across such a motley crew. He is in a dire situation... having been caught in flagrante delicto by a husband's ill timed return.... He escapes through the cow shed leaving his good cloak behind him.

Luckily his Latin verses buy him a loaf of bread, a pigskin and a place in the company and he thereby escapes the wrath of a cuckolded husband.

Dwindling audiences and borderline penury prompt the players to introduce and improvise contemporary topics within their theatrical performances, and, happening upon a village where a young woman is accused of the murder of a boy... the players decide to enact the murder. Reconstruction of the murder scene, I think it's called these days.

But something snags, facts don't add up and the reenactment throws up reasonable doubts. Sherlock could learn a thing or too from this crew. Their theatrics point to a different suspect, to other possible victims and to a web of heinous abuse perpetrated by a man high authority.

This is nail biting stuff.

A  must read, must keep , must reread.

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