The Origins of Mummers Plays are believed to be rooted in the oldest of pagan ceremonies combined with the "Lord of Misrule" customs, and were a traditional part of Christmas at the Court of Edward III (1327-77). In the early Middle Ages the Church introduced Saints and Old Testament Prophets into the drama to produce Christian Miracle Plays, but perhaps it was the other way round.
Despite the efforts of the Clergy and the popularity of the Miracle Plays, they never quite succeeded in ousting the old pagan Mumming Plays, which remain popular to this day. In these the players disguised themselves by blacking their faces or by wearing masks, and garments made from ribbon or strips of paper, a custom that still survives at Marshfield in Wiltshire. The practice is based on an ancient belief that if the Mummers were recognised, the magical power of their play would be broken.
Although there are many regional variations, the main plot of the traditional mumming play revolves around a battle between Saint George and an enemy who is variously called The Turkish Knight, Bold Slasher, or the Black Prince of Paradise. The climax comes when one or other of the protagonists is killed. The Doctor then intervenes and miraculously restores him to life. This simple story symbolises the eternal struggle of good & evil, light & darkness, fertile spring & sterile Winter - an expression of man's preoccupation with the cycle of the seasons.
THE ACTING SONG
You Gentlemen of England
I'll have you to draw near,
And mark these words which we shall say,
And quickly you shall hear.
Repeat the last line, e.g. "and quickly you shall hear", then
With your ha'pence and strong beer
And we'll come no more a guising,
Until another year.
The winter it is with us now,
So dirty wet and cold,
To try your good nature
This night we do make bold.
Go down into your cellar,
And see what you can find,
If your barrels be not empty,
We hope you will prove kind.
So now we make an ending,
Of what we did begin,
For going out a Guising,
We think it is no sin
Our play was "written" in 1981 by Peter Hicks. He researched as many Mummers Plays as he could, (quite a feat in itself in 1981 without the internet) and took what he considered to be the best bits from each and cobbled them all together! He looked at the Mylor version, but also the Symondsbury, Sussex and Carrington Moss plays, all of which feature the King of Egypt's Daughter and have very familiar sounding lines.
The Original Play was for seven players
Page - not known (but possibly Vic Legg)
Father Christmas – Chris Ridley
St George – Peter Marlow
Turkish Knight – Peter Hicks
Doctor – Roger Hancock
Besty Bub – Vic Legg
Big Head (Musician) – Dave Blayney
It is recorded that we performed it in 1981 and 1982, but it was never mentioned again until 1996. The numbers involved since then have varied with perhaps as many 13 characters being involved, though probably not all at the same time.
The first 'performance' was at the Folk Club, at Christmas in the old hut behind the Flowery Cow, by process of elimination, It all came to pass sometime between 1973 & 1975.
Father Christmas will be there to open the event