...stagecraft in England was already thriving among the folk. "Mystery Plays" were produced as parts of pageants as early as the 1300s, with the first absolute evidence of such a performance in 1378. They were community efforts, associated with specific religious festivals and most probably with market faires. All the known examples portray events of Biblical history, both Old Testament and New, but with considerable license to include imagined personages and incidents. Most if not all were cyclical, proceeding from the story of Adam and Eve, tale by tale, up to the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. In some cases, the cycle of plays may have been mounted at various times in the church year, or spread over a number of years, or else produced simulataneously on various stages around the pageant grounds. Generally, each play was the possession and responsibility of a guild - either a craft guild or a devotional confraternity - whose members constituted cast and stage hands. It's known that sometimes the plays were staged on wagons, which moved from station to station throught the community. Certain communities were well-known in their times for their play pageants, among them York, Chester, and Wakefield. Thus the most well preserved cycles are those associated with such cities. The authors of the plays are unknown, but they were certainly educated men, most likely local clergymen. Some of them possessed the highest literary instincts. The mystery plays, all and some, are among the greatest literary treasures of the European Middle Ages.
The language in which they were written is far closer to modern English than the language of Chaucer. Here's a sample, the exchange between one of the Three Kings and Herod, who is always portrayed as a raving madman:
Herod: This were a wondir thyng!
Say, what barne shulde that be?
I Rex: Sir, he shall be kyng
Of Jewes and of Jude.
Herod: Kyng! In the devyl way, dogges, fy!
Now I see wele ye rothe and rave
Be any shymeryng of the skye
When ye shudde knowe owther kyng or knave?
Nay, I am kyng and none but I...
Not so hard, eh? Especially with notes and glosses.
The promulgation of the Feast of Corpus Christi, by the Council of Vienne in 1311, with its date set never midsummer, played a large role in stabilizing and disseminating the custom of play pageants around Europe. The Oberammergau Passion Play is a survival of that influence. Similar plays were produced in France, more probably under monastic supervision, and an impressive manuscript, the Fleury Playbook, has survived, but no other folk achieved such literary excellence as the English. The Coventry cycle in particular is witty, lusty, bawdy, and at the same time touchingly pious and reverent. No doubt the plays were justified as "educational" sermons-in-the-round in pre-literate communities, but their entertainment value must have been appreciated equally.
I've searched the crypts and closets of amazon for films or TV realizations of any of the Mystery Plays, and found... NONE! Heads up, cinematographers! Here's a huge opportunity!