'Guisering today on the Derbys/Notts Border'
Ripley Morris Men, formed in 1924, revived in 1981.
In 1982 after we performed the Derby Tup we were contacted by Percy Cook who told us about the Guisers play he used to do as a child, before the First World War, in Hammersmith, Ripley. We performed Percy's play, complete with two songs at the end, and using wooden swords he had made for us, the following Christmas, and every Christmas since.
Percy's play is very short. Ideal to perform in a modern pub, where attention spans are also very short. We can manage 15 or more performances a night.
Performances on the three (or four) Fridays in December before Christmas, about 40 performances, at pubs/clubs around Ripley and Selston.
Venues (agreed with landlord), routes and times vary, decided by the tour leader. No advertising, we burst in, perform, collect, and disappear (after a beer). Collection for Ripley Hospital League of Friends, (hospital built by public subscription following the death of a miner). We collect £1200+ each year.
Quite a strong local Guisering tradition in the area, some older people know the words, and there are texts for 8 local plays, 5 of which we have collected. We have some interesting reminiscences from our informants.
- Keeping the play up to date with references to topical news.
- Costumes vary continuously, chosen by the performers, who also vary.
- We like to ad lib, and interact with the audience. Performances can vary considerably. Reactions range from hostile, indifference, to active participation, particularly with hen parties.
- Some black up, some now use other colours (blue, green, white, red) as the mood or character takes us, to avoid offence.
- If we have more performers we split parts, or double up characters. If we have less we double up parts. We usually add an extra character, The Policeman, who finishes the play off, and tells everyone where we are going next, so they can avoid it. We added Nelson for the anniversary of Trafalgar.
- Some of us like to add new props.