Book Review: 'In Comes I: Forty Years of the Wantage Mummers'
by Wantage Mummers.
Wantage: Wantage Mummers, 2016, 108pp.
ISBN 978-1-5262-0177-5, £10.00
The Wantage Mummers started in 1975, and perform every Boxing Day in the open at three locations in and around Wantage, Oxfordshire (formerly Berkshire). Their play is a typical hero-combat play, based on a version from Steventon, with the addition of local hero King Alfred and topical variations. The Mummers play to large audiences, who wait eagerly for the end of the play when Old Father Beelzebub recites a long piece of doggerel. This comprises satirical verses summarising the key events, national and local, from the foregoing year. Most of this book is an anthology of these verses from 1989 onwards.
Doggerel (their word) accurately describes the poetic quality of the verses, but it is just the ticket for this type of humour, which I feel is above average. To give you a flavour, here is a verse from the 2015 speech that should remain topical for a few years yet:
Now, politics answer to Forest Gump,
Coming soon, Donald Trump;
Extreme views that shouldn't be said,
And a ginger cat stuck on his head.
There are explanatory footnotes for each year to help those readers who are too young to remember the event covered, and those of us are old enough to have forgotten them.
The book starts with a brief introduction to mummers' and guisers' plays in general, and Oxfordshire plays in particular. This is one of the best I have seen - factually sound and readable. It is followed by a slightly longer history of Wantage Mummers' 40 years which is similarly informative and entertainingly written, and this is accompanies by a selection of photographs of the group taken over the years.
The book meant as a bit of fun, but also has a serious purpose. It is being sold in aid of several charities, listed in the book, and is available from: http://shop.icknieldwaymorrismen.org.uk/in-comes-i.html. Snap one up while stocks last and prepare yourself for a good chortle.