Bath Unconvention Symposium 2011 - Gavin Skinner

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'An illustrated talk concerning the Brunel play'


In September 2009 a new mummers' play was performed for the first time around the streets of Bristol; in the shadow of Clifton Suspension Bridge, at the Underfall Yard, next to the ss Great Britain, in the centre of Queen Square and at the Temple Meads Old Station. Each location had a connection with the history and achievements of a man who made Bristol famous - although he never made it his home.

Performed by Rag Morris Mummers, The Nine Lives of Isambard Kingdom Brunel was an attempt to encapsulate the spirit of this complex individual by presenting nine episodes from his life as a series of short mummers' plays. The great engineer is well-known for his magnificent failures as well as his astonishing triumphs; he often took great risks and frequently ended up in mortal danger. In order to present these episodes as a mummers play, the character of Doctor Foster, down from Gloucester, was introduced to cure his man if he was not quite dead; and represented the real-life physicians who would have treated the engineer after his accidents and through his bouts of ill-health. The play was performed once more on the 15th September 2009 - the 150th anniversary of Brunel's death.

The play, however, lives on - and was revived in 2011 for the Bristol Folk Festival, on stage at the Colston Hall, and for the UnConvention. This talk is a chance to discover more about the processes behind the creation and performances of the play. [Full PDF - 310kB]

About the author

Gavin has been a full-time member of Bristol's Rag Morris since 1994 and has at various times in the past been Bagman, Foreman and Squire. In 2008 he started work on the script for the Brunel Play which led to the revival of the public performance of mummers' plays by members of Rag Morris. He has since written or assembled scripts for two further mummers' plays and has performed as various Doctors in all three of them. In his non-spare time, Gavin works for the At-Bristol science centre, designing software for interactive exhibits.

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