"This is a Mummers’ play I wrote": Part 5 - School and Community Mumming

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School and Community Mumming

These plays have similarities with adapted mumming plays and skits, in that they may reflect the interests of the school or community, and may feature the topical satire of skits. The difference is that these productions are by amateurs led by professionals, meaning drama teachers, professional actors and similar facilitators. They are usually one-off performances or programmes, possibly associated with a festival or special event. Typically, they are initiated or sponsored by an educational or arts body. The motivation of these bodies is educational, whereas for the teachers and facilitators the projects may also be a livelihood.

The project leaders may provide a ready-made script, perhaps from a menu of wares on offer to potential clients. More likely, the script will be composed by the group under guidance from a project leader, probably in a workshop setting, and perhaps leaving scope for improvisation during the performance. Anything goes, although the script may paraphrase or copy the style of the tradition

School and Community Examples

  • "Ringing Down the Shut" Peter Cann (P.Cann, 1997)

    This play was commissioned by Shropshire Local Education Authority and Pentabus Theatre and was first performed by members of Drama Centres, the youth theatre network for Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin at Old St Chad’s, Shrewsbury. Steve Johnstone directed the production.

    The mumming play is a play within a play, being scene 2 of 8. The play as a whole is similar to the film The Wicker Man, complete with burning effigy. The comic sub-play represents the "Winifest" within the plot. Winifred is beheaded by Caradoc. A mournful Bueno reunites her head with her body and miraculously revives her.

  • "Mummers Play" - Thaddeus Jurczynski (T.Jurczynski, 2003)

    Jurczynski put this play together for the Fremont Art Council's Feast of the Winter Solstice in Seattle, Washington, USA. The characters are Fool, St.George, Squire, Dragon and Doctor. This is a fairly traditional cast, and the script indeed includes a few traditional lines. However, the script mostly paraphrases and extends one or more traditional texts. St.George kills the Dragon but then also kills himself by accidentally falling on his sword. The Squire brings on the Doctor to raise St.George. The Doctor's medicines topically include herbal teas and Viagra.

  • The Armagh Rhymers (Armagh Rhymers, no date)

    The Armagh Rhymers are a professional performing group based in Armagh, Northern Ireland. They perform shows throughout Ireland, and run educational workshops for schools both at the Ulster Folklife Museum and at the schools themselves. Their main show merges an Irish Mummers' play with traditional music and song, and this also forms the basis of their school workshops.

The Armagh Rhymers
Fig.4 - The Armagh Rhymers
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  • "George and the Dragon" (Youth Fellowship, 1998)

    The Youth Fellowship is an evangelical Christian arts organisation in Market Drayton, Shropshire, England, working with Christian youth groups. Their plays are intended to promulgate a religious message and perhaps to make converts, although their scripts seem to be directed more at fellow practising Christians than to the general public. This play was performed publicly at the Summer Market in Market Drayton in 1998.

    The Dragon is unsurprisingly the villain, and he threatens "the crowd" - this being a group of cast members rather than the public. Two knights then try to kill the dragon, but fail and are eaten. Incidentally, despite the title, neither of these is named George, nor is anyone else. In the end the Dragon beaten to death by members of "the crowd" with placards that spell J-E-S-U-S. The moral of the story is "Only Jesus saves".

© Copyright 2003, Peter Millington (petemillington@virginmedia.com), Last updated: 07-Apr-2016