'Six actors I've brought...'
This paper compares the English mumming tradition with legitimate drama through the various aspects involved in preparation, performance and style, including: stage, storyline, temporal and geographic location, actors, audience, rehearsal, leadership, management and administration. It concludes that the vernacular tradition was of a style distinct from professional drama, from amateur dramatics and from pantomime, being a form of drama in its own right with its own mores and with its own strengths and weaknesses. It argues that some more recent revival styles of performance do not simply ignore the older style, but by doing so can precipitate the loss of a distinctive vernacular style.
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About the author
Tom Brown holds his Doctorate from the City University (London) Department of Arts Policy and Management. His M.A. dissertation - Mumming: the Evolution and Continuity of English Vernacular Drama - from part of which this paper derives, examined the parallel development of legitimate drama and vernacular plays in England from the earliest references to the present day.
His Doctoral thesis - English Vernacular Performing Arts in the Late Twentieth Century - researched repertoire, origins, development, motivation and management in over 330 extant performing groups: morris sides, mumming groups, calendar customs (including Hobby Horses, Jack-in-the-greens, feast days, etc) and display dance teams.
He and his wife created the North Devon Mummers in 1970, adapting a local Exmoor play, and were Master Mummers for ten years before handing the tradition on when they moved away from the area. It has been maintained ever since, and they re-joined the team when they returned to North Devon in 1998. Seasonal performances have now continued for forty-one seasons. Tom has also written extensively, including publication in Folklore, on his local calendar custom The Hunting of the Earl of Rone.