Mummers

Rag Morris have a tradition of performing self-penned mummers' plays reflecting Bristol's stories, myths and heroes. Over the thirty years of Rag's existence we've put on a number of plays.

Some older examples are:

- The legend of the local giants Vincent and Goram.
- The Severn Bores and the Wyld Wimmin
- Rag's take on a traditional mummers' play

But it had been 15 years since the last one when the anniversary of the death of Isambard Kingdom Brunel arrived. Cue a new play, which was premiered in September 2009, and revived for the Bristol Folk Festival on Saturday 30th April 2011:

The Nine Lives of Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Following on from the enthusiasm and success of this another new play was penned, following more closely the mummers tradition and performed in December 2010:

Prince Albert and the Lionheart

We very successfully revived this at the Bristol Folk Festival in 2012 to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee.

Traditional Plays

For the summer of 2011 Rag Morris Mummers presented a further new play entitled 'Bold Robin Hood'. This play is substantially based on the traditional one from South Cerney, Glos. Here the chief character, rather than St George, is Robin Hood.

That winter (2011) we revived a thoroughly traditional play, in its home village of Alveston, Gloucs., with thanks to our hosts at The Cross Hands. This play had probably not been performed for at least a century.

For Winter 2013 we revived the Rag (Cotswold Style) play, but only, as it turned out, for ourselves.

What is a mummers' play?

A mummers' play is a type of traditional folk play that has been performed by enthusiastic amateurs in villages and towns for hundreds of years, more often recently by folk revivalists and morris dancers. A mummers' play often features a hero figure, such St George or Robin Hood, who is killed in combat with a mortal enemy. Then enters the good Doctor, who brings the hero back to life. Other characters often represent wisdom, youth and the devil.

Some mummers' plays use scripts whose origins are lost in the mists of time, or at least first recorded in Victorian times. Themes of resurrection and new beginnings meant that these plays are often performed at the turn of the year, between the winter solstice and twelfth night, although others are staged at different seasons. Mummers' plays were normally taken round farmhouses and the residences of the gentry, though not exclusively so. Nowadays they are often performed in the open air, by a group who travel from one location to another to present the play a number of different times to different audiences.

For a greater overview of mummers' and folk plays visit: MasterMummers.org


Photo © Simon Chapman