It’s obvious, from the way the characters address them to the eponymous lead character, that the audience is as much ‘mankind’ as Mankind is himself. Mankind’s plight, his indecision between the pleasures of the world and matters of the spirit, crosses boundaries of circumstance and time. The play tells its audiences that they are as at risk of making evil decisions as he is- and that the forgiveness Mercy offers him is more universally available, too.
We decided it would be interesting to not just imply the audience’s complicity in Mankind’s fall and redemption, but to make his journey theirs explicitly. Having the audience reading Mankind’s lines puts them squarely in his shoes, and makes his decisions theirs. To do this, we’ve tried to put as few boundaries between this corporate ‘Mankind’ and the actors as possible. The physical borders of the acting space are completely permeable, and the cast still looks like a part of the twenty-first century. Very non-traditionally, the actors will have scripts in hand, just as the audience will, to make sure that everyone seems to be in the same place. The demons may sometimes look like demons, but they walk among us.
This is quite a departure for HIDden, which has heretofore staged medieval dramas quite traditionally. Performing for an academic conference gives us a unique opportunity to explore the play in ways that might not be possible with a different audience, and we expect that a group of medievalists will bring specialist insight into their participation. Thus far, the cast has been having a lot of fun getting their heads inside of the medieval characters and their writer. Now we’re all looking forward to hearing what revelations might be brought out by our audience/actors.