Bradshaw Mummers, Summer 2009

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Bradshaw Mummers of Halifax, West Yorkshire, England, at Warwick Folk Festival, 25th July 2009
Bradshaw Mummers of Halifax, West Yorkshire, England, performing their John Barleycorn Play at Warwick Folk Festival, 25th July 2009.

Bradshaw Mummers are one of a number of revival folk play groups who perform during the summer at folk festivals and other special events. The fact that traditional folk plays are normally performed during the winter half of the year means that adjustments have to be made for out of season performances in summer.

Groups who use traditional scripts normally need to drop any references to the original season of performance - Christmas, Plough Monday, Easter, etc. For instance, the character 'Father Christmas' might be dropped totally from the play, or he might simply be renamed and given a different costume (examples from various groups have included 'the green man', 'Old Father Abraham', and 'Saint Ogrek').

Another approach is to extend the group's repertoire with new self-penned plays written in the mumming and guising style, either on a summer theme or an altogether non-seasonal theme. This is what the Bradshaw Mummers have done with their 'John Barleycorn' play, which is a cautionary comedy about the evils of alcohol.

Traditional winter plays tend to take place in indoor venues, notably pubs, where the players can interact closely with their audience. Summer performances, on the other hand, tend to be staged outdoors, sometimes to large crowds. This requires a different more declamatory style of delivery, which may limit the possibilities for verbal subtlety, and also requires a different type of interaction with the audience. However, larger performance spaces also mean there may be opportunities for more unrestrained actions and stage business such as exciting choreographed sword fights and comic chase scenes.

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© 2009, Peter Millington. ( Last updated: 27-Oct-2009