"This is a Mummers’ play I wrote": Part 2 - Resources and Types of Play

<< Back   Home Page   Paper Contents   Next >>

Resources for Modern Plays

The plays used for this study were self-defining. By this I mean that if they said they were mumming plays, they were included. The aim, after all, was discover whatever they meant by this. Most of the plays were drawn from the Links page for Modern Compositions on the Traditional Drama Research Group website - www.folkplay.info. At the time of writing, this listed thirty websites containing modern play scripts, some of which had multiple texts. Also, there were eight websites reporting performances of modern compositions, and nine websites for playwrights with scripts for sale. (With so many scripts available free on the Web, one wonders why anyone would want to pay money for a script. However, some of the playwrights also provide performance advice and other services.) This collection of links continues to grow.

In addition to these plays, further unsolicited electronic texts were received personally from playwrights and included in the study, as were a few individual hardcopy scripts from various sources. A key factor in selecting this corpus was that the texts were mostly already in electronic form, which meant I was able to load them into a database for analysis and comparison with the database of about 180 traditional texts I had assembled for my PhD research. Many of the websites provided photographs of performances. However, this study concentrates on the scripts and the contexts.

Another body of modern texts is the collection of about 150 "made" scripts assembled by Ron Shuttleworth for the Morris Ring Folk-Play Collection. This was not included in this study, partly because the scripts were not available in electronic form and partly because I wished to keep them in reserve to test my conclusions. Ron, who saw a draft of this paper, tells me that his collection has a similar range of play types, but with more originating from Morris dancing teams.

Types of Modern Play

From an examination of the research corpus, I identified the following types of modern play, largely characterised by why and how they were prepared, and how they were performed:

  • Mumming Skits

    • One-off topical entertainments

  • Adapted Mumming Plays

    • Plays reflecting the special interests of clubs and societies

  • School and Community Mumming Plays

    • Compositions guided by drama professionals

  • Performers’ Rewrites

    • New plays to fulfil new needs

  • Compiled Mumming Plays

    • Plays with lines collated from two or more traditional texts

  • Other Modern Compositions

    • Experimental writing exercises

    • Vanity mumming plays

I shall now discuss these types in more detail, in each case giving brief examples and a more detailed case study.

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