Angie Johnson watches a spectacle-filled production at St. John's Chapel

Taking advantage of a rare opportunity to see the Croxton Play of the Sacrament, a ‘host miracle’ play from the late 1400s, in the perfect setting of St John’s Chapel, I was delighted to find that, despite its medieval origins, it was both accessible and entertaining. Director Elisabeth Dutton’s suitably low-tech production is full of spectacle, magic, puppets and larger-than-life characters.

The show begins ingeniously, the two ‘Vexillators’, played by Sarah Anson and Marin O’Hagin, using puppets to tell the prologue, leading us comfortably into the action. The plot follows the misadventures of Jonathas the Jew and his friends, who want to acquire a consecrated host to test the claim that Christ is present within it. An excellent performance by George Gandy as Jonathas was ably supported by Aurélie Blanc and Tamara Voegeli as sidekicks Masphat and Malchus.

He persuades dodgy Christian merchant Aristorius (hilarious Alex Mills as a spiv adorned with gold chains) to sell them a host. They stab it and are scared when it bleeds — deciding to boil it in oil, Jonathas realises it’s stuck fast to his hand. Nailing the host to a tree so that they can prise it free, things spectacularly backfire when Jonathas’s arm comes off instead. The humour escalates further as more wonders ensue, terrifying the miscreants. Christ appears as a young boy to rebuke them but he also mends Jonathas’s arm and, realising they are out of their depth, the Jews go to the Bishop and repent.

It’s a curious piece. In this apparently anti-Semitic play the secular Christian characters are, in my opinion, much more wicked, and when this was written the Jews had long been expelled from England. This leads to some dubious characterisations — at one point the Jews thank Mohammed!

A wonderful choir accompani-ment, directed and arranged by Thomas Allery, rounded off the production perfectly.

Croxton Play of the Sacrament
St John’s Chapel, St Giles