Traditional Drama Forum - No.4 ISSN 1743-3789 January 2002


News View alone
for printing

Welcome to

The Folk Play Research Website has acquired a snappy new domain name - - which we hope will be easier to remember than our old URL. The old addresses will continue to operate, but would recommend that any webmasters whose sites have hyperlinks to ours should update the URL accordingly.


John Blair "Bampton Folklore"
Cardiff: Merton Priory Press, 2001. ISBN 1-898937-50-8

Chapter 1, Starting the Ritual Year: Christmas and the Mummers’ Play, deals with the versions of the Bampton play collected by Alfred Williams, Dr. J.A. Giles, Thomas Carter (who collected on behalf of Percy Manning) and P.H. Ditchfield.

Dianne Dugaw, "'Deep Play' John Gay and the Invention of Modernity"
Newark: University of Delaware Press; London: Associated University Presses, 2001. ISBN 0-87413-731-4

In this new book on the eighteenth century writer, a major thesis which Dugaw argues is that Gay was ‘steeped in traditional lore’ and drew on it extensively in his work. In Chapter 5, ‘Village Mumming on an Urban Stage’ Dugaw suggests that The What-d’Ye-Call-It and Three Hours After Marriage drew heavily of the folk play.

Peter T. Millington, "A New Look at English Folk Play Costumes", 2002

This paper was first presented at the Traditional Drama Conference 1985, University of Sheffield, 12 October 1985. This paper reviews the costumes in a European context, looking at types, function and developmental trends. Three main categories are proposed; (1) realistic costumes (2) non-representational costumes, and (3) dancers' uniforms. Costumes have been influenced by the popular professional theatre and the pre-existing customs to which the plays became attached.

Peter Millington, "Plough Monday in and around the City of Nottingham", 2001

This paper was first presented at the Annual Conference of the Folk Life Society, University of Nottingham, Sep.1992, and repeated at the International Conference on Traditional Drama, University of Sheffield, March 1998. It outlines the history of Nottingham's Plough Day Fair, and describes the non-play Plough Monday customs that occurred within the expanding city limits in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It concludes that folk plays were not native to the city, although actors from outlying villages may have occasionally travelled into the city to perform.

Jack Santino "The Hallowed Eve. Dimensions of Culture in a Calendar Festival in Northern Ireland"
Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8131-2081-0

In Chapter2, pages 35-43, draws some parallels between Irish Christmas mumming and similar activities at Halloween.

[Robin Wiltshire] "Repository and Media Guide, Archives of Cultural Tradition"
Sheffield: National Centre for English Cultural Tradition, University of Sheffield, 2001

This is a much needed introductory guide to the archive collections at NATCECT. The descriptions of the material in some collections, those of Dave Bathe and Russell Wortley for example, will be of interest to drama scholars. Copies of the guide are available without charge but please send a stamped (41p) addressed A5 envelope to Robin Wiltshire at NATCECT, University of Sheffield, 9 Shearwood Road, Sheffield, S10 2TN

Renaissance Studies Volume 15, Number 2, 2001. ISSN 0269-1213

This is a special issue with the title ‘Medicine in the Renaissance City’. Guest edited by Professor Vivian Nutton, the issue has articles dealing with Quack Doctors.

Theatre Research International Volume 232, Number 2, 1998. ISSN 0307-8833

A special issue, ‘The Commedia dell’arte’ guest editor, M.A. Katritzky

International Traditional Drama Conference 2002
19-21 July, 2002, Halifax Hall, University of Sheffield, England
View alone
for printing

Conference facilities and accommodation has been reserved at the Halifax Hall of Residence at the University of Sheffield. The conference will start with registration in the afternoon of Friday 19 July 2002; dinner will be at 6.00pm and will be followed by the first paper of the conference. The rest of the evening will be spent in and around the bar. Most of the conference papers will be delivered on Saturday and Sunday. The conference will finish with afternoon tea at around 4.00pm on Sunday 21 July.

Provisional Agenda
Christopher Cawte The Earsdon Sword Dance Play
Emily Lyle Transformations of ‘Galoshins’ in the twentieth century
Sandra Billington ‘The Game of Torturers’ in Mystery Plays as midsummer play
Duncan Broomhead The Alderley Mummers’ Play. The story of survival and revival
Mike Preston Reading Traditional Drama Chapbooks Closely: Evidence Concerning their Oral and Written Sources
Peter Robson Folksong in Dorset Mummers’ Plays
Terry Gunnell Icelandic Vikivaki Games
Lisa Warner Christmastide death games in Russia
John Widdowson The Soldiers: Text and Context in Performance of Mummers’ Plays from Change Islands, Newfoundland
Thomas Pettitt The Folk Interlude: Dramatic Aspects of Traditional Games, Gambols and Songs
Paul Smith The Papa Stour Sword Dance Play
Derek Schofield "Christmas at Uttoxeter: The Guisers Made Their Usual Tour".
Peter Millington Textual Analysis of English Quack Doctor Plays: Some new discoveries.
Eddie Cass ‘Dr Carpenter of Harvard College’: On cataloguing a major folk play collection

The conference fee for full residential delegates is £125 or £150 sterling depending on room type. Reduced charges for non-residential day delegates are itemised on the Registration Form.

Registration Form

So that we can confirm our bookings with Halifax Hall, please register by printing out the Registration Form and sending it to Eddie Cass with your non-refundable deposit (£50 for residential delegates, £15 for day delegates).

Enquiries: Please contact Eddie Cass (, Tel: +44 (0)161 881 8640

The Cropwell Ploughboy's Costume of 1893 View alone
for printing

On the 15th February 1893, T.Fairman Ordish read part two of his paper on English Folk-drama to the Folk-lore Society. To illustrate his paper, he exhibited two folk play costumes, and a number of photographs of Hampshire Mummers and the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance. One of the costumes comprised a Mummer's jacket and cap from Hampshire. The other, shown below, was a costume worn by the actors of a Plough Monday play from Cropwell, Nottinghamshire. Ordish's paper was subsequently published in Folk-lore (T.F.Ordish, 1893). Ordish presumably retained the costumes after his presentation, and subsequently they passed to the Folk-lore Society upon his death, along with his manuscripts. Later, probably during the Second World War, they were sent for safekeeping at the Cambridge and County Folk Museum. There they remained untouched until Arnold Rattenbury retrieved both costumes for an exhibition on "The Story of English Clowning" at Nottingham Castle in 1977. I also displayed the Cropwell costume at my exhibition "Guysers and Plough Bullocks" at the Brewhouse Yard Museum, Nottingham in 1993. The costumes are now curated by the Costume Museum, Nottingham.

Costume from Cropwell, Nottinghamshire, 1893 - Front Costume from Cropwell, Nottinghamshire, 1893 - Back

Description of the Costume

The costume is basically a white shirt covered relatively randomly with silhouette cut-outs of people, farm animals, ploughs and so forth. The cut-outs are made of red or black cloth. The words "In . comes . I" are written in cut-out capital letters on the front, with the "N" and "S" reversed, indicating that the maker was semi-literate. Red strips of cloth have been sewn onto the arms and round the collar and buttons. In addition, some curtain braiding has been used as trim around the bottom of the shirt and on the cuffs.

There is a group of seven men holding hands on the breast of the front, and a similar group of six below the shoulders on the back. These appear to have been made in one go by cutting the cloth when it was folded in a broad pleat. Also on the back, a pair of women with bustles appear to have been made the same way, along with an identical third woman, who presumably became detached during manufacture. There has been no attempt to keep everything to a standard scale. So we find, for instance, a song bird on the front that is the same size as a sheep and as a man.

Mrs. Chaworth Musters' Account

The following description is extracted from pages 166-167 of Ordish's paper:

"It is with great pleasure that I bring to your notice now a version of the Plough-Monday play which has been communicated to me by Mrs. Chaworth Musters, along with the most interesting dress worn by the actors of this version as repeatedly witnessed by Mrs. Chaworth Musters at her residence, Wiverton Hall, near Bingham. Nottinghamshire. The version wears a modern look, but, like the hobby-horse performances just noticed, it has its elements of archaism which persist. I should like first to read an extract from a letter I received from Mrs. Musters, as it is in effect a message to the Society, and brings before us the aspects of the play as they impressed themselves on an eye-witness:-

'I hope that if all is well another year, I may have the pleasure of seeing some members of the Folk-lore Society here for Plough-Monday, and I hope the play will not die out in this neighbourhood for long, as the actors this time were all youths who had learnt their parts by word of mouth. I had some difficulty in getting a copy of the words a few years ago, as it seems never to have been written down ; but I did get it, very ill-spelt and difficult to make out, except that I had heard it several times, and I had it printed in the appendix of a Notts story I wrote, so that it might be preserved. I enclose the book. The same version seems to be known in Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, and Northamptonshire. I wish I could have got a photograph of the performers, but they could only come in the evening, being farm labourers. The man who is called ' Hopper Joe' has a basket slung before him, as if he was going to sow seeds, in which you put any money you like to give. The sergeant gets hold of any bit of old uniform he can meet with, and the young lady always has a veil, Beelzebub a blacked face, and either a besom of straw or a club with a bladder fastened to the end of it. The chief feature of the play is the raising to life of the old woman (who is knocked down by Beelzebub) by the doctor, who is always dressed in the smartest modern clothes, with a riding-whip and top hat if possible. This year the men had no cut-out figures on their shirts, only ribbons and rosettes and feathers stuck in their hats, and the brass ornaments of their horse's harness hanging down in front. But I have generally seen them with small horses, and ploughs in red and black, stuck on. They do not bring a plough with them here. Little boys with ribbons on come round begging in all the villages in the vale of Belvoir here, on Plough-Monday, but no women or girls ever seem to take part in it.'

Mrs. Musters subsequently sent me the dress exhibited. In a letter which accompanied it she said : 'The group of men are intended to represent the Plough-Monday boys. ........ The idea of the man who made it is that all the live creatures connected with a farm ought to be represented.' Mrs. Musters also sent me a copy of the verses sung on the occasion of the play. These have never before been recorded. I exhibit the MS. of the Ploughman who sang them on Plough-Monday last, and who wrote them down for Mrs. Musters."

Neither Ordish nor Mrs. Chaworth Musters' letter mention the village where the play was performed, so one finds cases where it is cited as coming from Wiverton Hall and/or Bingham. There can be no doubt that it was taken to Wiverton Hall for performance, but in her historical novel "A Cavalier Stronghold" Mrs. Chaworth Musters appends the full text of the play, and states that it came from Cropwell. (This text is available in our scripts collection at There are in fact two Cropwells in Nottinghamshire, Cropwell Bishop and Cropwell Butler. These lie next to each other, and are both close to Wiverton Hall. It is not clear if only one of these villages is meant, or whether the actors were estate workers drawn from both.

Mrs. Chaworth Musters weaves a performance of the play into Chapter XIX of her novel. The story is based around "Wyverton Hall" in the English Civil War. This is however an anachronism, since there is no evidence of any kind that Recruiting Sergeant plays of the type performed at Cropwell existed before the 19th century.

Original Correspondence regarding the Costume

The Ordish Papers held by the Folklore Society contain a manscript copy Mrs. Chaworth Musters' text and a couple of items of correspondence relating to the costume. However, the long letter quoted by Ordish in his paper is not present.

The first item is a note from H.Howell of Cropwell Butler to Mrs. Chaworth Musters, accompanying a paper cut-out of a horse about 10cm long. This is similar in appearance to the horses on the actual costume:

From H.Howell
Cropwell Butler
"Jan. 20th 1893
To Mrs. Musters
Wiverton Hall
Dear Madam
The enclose his the kind of horse which his used for Plough Monday. They are sewen on an old white shirt they are cut out in all colours.
Yours Truly H.Howell"

From this letter, it seems likely that H.Howell was the maker of our costume, unless he was simply giving advice. The second letter, which presumably is also dated 1893 is from Chaworth Musters to Ordish:

"Wiverton, Bingham.
Jan 24
My dear Sir. I enclose the shirt which I hope will reach you in time & be an illustration of what you describe. The group of men are intended to represent the Plough Monday boys, & the man who made it say that the words 'In comes I,' with which the play begins, ought to have been cut out too, but he had not the time to do it. The plough is I fancy rather difficult to cut out, so there is only one represented, but I have seen more on one shirt. The idea of the man who made it, is that all the live creatures connected with a farm ought to be represented I look forward to your paper with great interest.
Vy truly yours.
L C Musters"

Part of this letter was quoted by Ordish in his paper. A couple of the statements made in this letter are at odds with the current appearance of the costume. Firstly, the letter implies that the maker had not had time to cut out the words "In comes I" to add to the costume, and yet there they are. Similarly, Chaworth Musters states that there is only one plough represented, and yet our costume has three horse and ploughs - one on the front left shoulder and two on the lower back. This is difficult to explain. Clearly the costume was made specially by one of the performers for Mrs. Chaworth Musters, presumably at Ordish's request and at short notice. Perhaps the costume was completed after Ordish gave his paper, although if so, by whom? Howell stated that the horse shapes were of all colours, but the shapes on our costume are all either black or red, which tallies with Chaworth Musters' own memories. Could it be that she was responsible for the making of the costume?

The last thing to remark upon is the manuscript of the verses that Ordish says were sung on the occasion. At one time, I thought that this might have been a manuscript of the play, written out by one of the actors, but I now believe this not to be the case. The Ordish Papers are arranged by county, but one Nottinghamshire item was mis-filed under Surrey. This is a "Ploughboys Song" from Wm. Parnham of Tithby, Vale of Belvoir, dated 19th Jan. 1893. This is not a play, but a folk song such as would have been sung during the general partying at the end of the performance. Tithby is hamlet lying between Cropwell Butler and Wiverton Hall, so it does seem to go with the Cropwell play. The manuscript's appearance tallies with Ordish's description, and it therefore appears to be the one supplied via Mrs. Chaworth Musters.


L.Chaworth Musters (1890) "A Cavalier Stronghold : A Romance of the Vale of Belvoir"
   London, Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., 1890

T.Fairman Ordish (1893) "English Folk-drama II",
   Folk-lore, June 1893, Vol.4, No.2, pp.149-175

Arnold Rattenbury (1977) "Clowning : June 11 to September 4 1977 : An Exhibition designed and catalogued for Nottingham Festival 1977 by Arnold Rattenbury"
   Nottingham, City of Nottingham Leisure Services, 1977

Peter Millington

Guisering in Somercotes, Derbyshire View alone
for printing

The following recollections have been contributed by Jim Marsh of Vancouver, Canada, and extracted from email correspondence between him and Clive Bennett of the Merrie England Mummers, and Pete Willow of Coventry Mummers.

I performed in a mumming play as a kid in Derbyshire during WWII .. I'm guessing between the ages of around ten to maybe thirteen or fourteen. We called it 'guisering' at that time .. I imagine derived from the costumes and black faces (soot from up the chimney) we wore .. disguises???

Remember that this was wartime England, and clothing was not readily available. To the best of my recollection, a lot of it was cloaks made of .. I don't know what you call them now .. we just called them 'sack-bags' .. the kind of bags that potatoes were carried in .. burlap. St George had a helmet probably made of cardboard covered in silver paper. We would keep a weather-eye out all year for anything that might come in handy for costume. A couple of our mothers would help out by making alterations and adjustments.

Anything that didn't get used became materials from which rugs would be pegged for the home ... probably another dead art in this day and age .. strips of cloth perhaps 3" long and 1" wide, that were cut up from old suits and other fabrics and secured in a 'sack-bag' base by means of a 'pegger' .. a tool that gripped the piece of material and pierced the sack-bag and then pulled the strip through the sacking half its length, so that two tufts of material protruded from the sacking base. Some very intricate patterns were possible by people with experience.

But I digress ....

Outlandish hats fabricated from whatever we could come up with .. as the doctor I had a bag and a man's jacket as a topcoat, and for at least one year an old bowler hat we found somewhere. The swords were carved from wood .. probably split out of pit props .. the same with the club carried by Beelzebub.

Both combatants would use dustbin lids as shields .. the galvanised metal lids .. which led to great clanging and banging during the duel.

The black faces was mostly to simulate beards and mustaches, but Beelzebub was all blackface. Soot was available in abundance .. central heating in homes was unheard of at that time .. at least in pit villages in Derbyshire. Coal was king.

We would go around local pubs and some private homes over the evenings of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. It was strictly a night-time thing ... no daytime performances. It was great when the Yanks were in the pubs .. they always threw lots of money into the collection tin!!! The custom was handed down to us by a group of older boys who probably now considered themselves too old to be horsing around with this kid's stuff ... exactly as we subsequently did. How long the tradition had gone on, I know not .. I wasn't really interested at that time. All I knew was that we could make a substantial sum of money doing it ... at least it was substantial in that day and age to a bunch of Derbyshire pit kids.

There were five members in the cast .. the Enter-In, St George, Bull-Slasher, a Doctor and Beelzebub. I recall that I was usually the Enter-In and would rush into a room brandishing a sword, crying:

"I open this door, I enter in,
With my nose above my chin,
And whether I sit, stand, rise or fall,
I'll do my best to please you all,
A room, a room, a gallant room,
A room to let us in,
I not one of the ragged sort, but of the royal kin,
My name is William of the Great,
The greatest man of courage bold,
My blood is hot, so raging hot,
No man can turn it cold,
But ah . . . what is that that strikes my mind,
I killed my wife and left her behind,
Which causes my fluttering tongue to say,
"Step in St George and clear thy way."

St George would come in and say his piece, then Bull-Slasher would enter, a few insults would be traded between the two and a duel with swords (wooden) would then commence, to much shouting and eventually moaning as Bull-Slasher succumbs to the superior swordsmanship of St George and is mortally wounded.

A doctor steps in and I wish I could recall the part . . I remember taking the part one year . . one part was :

"I can cure the It, the Grit, the Grunt, the Gout,
Pains within and pains without,
If there be ninety-nine devils in this man,
I'll cast ye a hundred out."

Bull-Slasher dies in spite of the doctor's bold claims, and Beelzebub enters the room to claim the soul.

"In steps I Beelzebub,
Over my shoulder I carry a club,
In my hand a dripping-pan,
Don't you think I'm a jolly old man?
If you don't . . I do."

I also recall that as Enter In ... had a part as the father of Bull-Slasher.

I recall Bull-Slasher's line:

"Ooooh me back."

To which I as the Doctor would respond:

"What is up with thy back??"

I was just killing myself laughing at the thought of how we must have sounded to the Yanks in the pubs .. more than likely unintelligible ... but I suspect the Yanks had their minds on other things.

The whole thing occupied maybe ten minutes, and at the conclusion, Beelzebub works his way around the room making threatening gestures with his club at those who fumbled in their pocket too long, dripping pan extended for pennies and the odd threepenny-bit .. or shilling if it was a Yank .. and off we'd go into the blackout to the next pub.

We all lived on Sleetmoor Lane in the village of Somercotes ... about halfway between Derby and Chesterfield, however, even at that time, the villages of Somercotes, Lower Somercotes, Leabrooks and Riddings were pretty well one contiguous habitat. We went to most of the pubs in the three villages, although I think that a couple of landlords would not allow us in because of our ages. Certainly the Crown Inn on Sleetmoor Lane, the Sun Inn, Tiger Inn, Devonshire Inn, Old English Gentleman, Rifle Volunteer and Black Horse Inn in Somercotes and Lower Somercotes .. also a working men's club at Lower Somercotes; the Horse and Jockey at Leabrooks, and the Red Lion, Seven Stars and New Inn at Riddings ... possibly the Moulders' Arms as well. The Miners' Welfare at Leabrooks was another stop. The only private homes we attended were those of Messrs Charles Moore and Dan Taylor, both in the higher echelons of employment of the local Squire .. W. Palmer Morewood ... who owned the local coal mine, Swanwick Colliery. One was the estate agent, the other I think a sales agent for the mine. Both homes were located on Sleetmoor Lane, and were the site of annual Christmas parties .. dinner jacket and cocktail gown affairs.

The other lads' names were Jim Roberts .. still living in Alfreton, Derbyshire ... a retired GPO engineer; the other three were Alan Kerry, Tony Hunt and Charley Stringer. I know nothing of the whereabouts of these people now. Tony Hunt attained the rank of sergeant in the Metropolitan Police, and was living in Enfield, Middlesex, in 1970. There was no trace of him in the phone book when we were in London a couple of years ago. I heard that Charley Stringer emigrated to either Australia or New Zealand. The last I heard, his brother Alan still lived on Sleetmoor Lane and had been active in local politics for many years. Alan was one of the group that passed the flame on to us. I am 70 years old, so some of the other lads could easily have passed on.

I have an idea that the practice pretty much ended with my age group .. there weren't any kids around to hand it on to ... and that would be before the end of WWII. I have no knowledge of it ever being revived again in later years .. if it was, I never heard of it.

Jim Marsh, Vancouver

Book Review View alone
for printing

Cover of "The Lancashire Pace-egging Play" "The Lancashire Pace-Egg Play: A Social History" by Eddie Cass.
[2001], FLS Publications, London, ISBN 0-903515-22-9
xic + 257pp Illus. £13.95 Sterling + p&p.

To begin with the conclusion: anyone interested in traditional drama should buy and read this book. You will enjoy it as a read and find it useful as a reference work. You will be stimulated by some of the ideas. Why did it have this effect on this reviewer?

One day every year in about mid-December, a group of mummers meet in Stamford, Lincolnshire, to perform a standard hero-combat play around the pubs and streets. Last year as St George lay dead for the umpteenth time, a group of Christmas shoppers passed on their way back to the car and, despite their burdens, they paused to watch. One elderly lady in the group seemed particularly interested and lingered even after the performance was over to offer a donation. "That was a Pace-Egg Play, wasn’t it? I used to do that when I was a kid in Rochdale." We had, apparently made her day, and I must say that from my point of view, the cold pavement, she made mine.

But now I wish I had paid more attention, made a note of her name and asked if I could meet her again. For thanks to Eddie Cass, the Pace-Egg Play and its background is likely to become a prime example for some of the ideas I discuss with WEA classes looking at "traditional customs" and I wonder now if that lady had been a street or a school performer.

In his introduction, the author sets the Pace Egg Play in a socio-geographical and historical context and in so doing explains why mumming is part of Easter celebrations in Lancashire. He gives an overview of past research, explaining the background to some of the theory that had become received wisdom until relatively recently and setting the scene for later assertions about the play’s function. He goes on to examine current theories of the origins of the various forms of folk drama, paying special attention (circa p.21) to the relationship between 18th century "theatrical" (sensu latissimo) texts and those of mummers plays, discussing, for instance, the similarity of the Doctor’s speech in the two forms. The similarity is convincing and the suggestion is that the mummers text is derived from widely performed theatrical offerings. However, one must wonder whether the theatrical version might not itself have been based on a version already current among the folk. The importance of fairs in disseminating the theatrical versions is stressed (p.24) and surely the hiring fair must also have been an important mechanism in the spread of the plays in rural contexts such as among the ploughboys of eastern England.

While paying tribute to earlier workers, he explains how the long-established idea that folk plays are an echo of some ancient pagan ritual arose and persisted into the 1960s and 1970s, but he is able to cast aside that vision of a golden age of ritual which so many others still cling to:

"Contemporary folk drama scholars and most folklorists are now sure that mumming plays did not have their origins in pagan ritual, but there is still no agreed, comprehensive theory to explain the rise and spread of the play..." "...In the past the search for origins has led to the neglect of the study of how plays were performed and perpetuated. What function the play had among a particular group of urban or rural artisans and the role it played in maintaining social relationships within definable social groups has also been ignored. To redress the balance is part of [the] purpose [of this book]" (p. 26).

It is this reviewer’s opinion that the author achieves that purpose.

As I read parts of the chapter "Performance and Performers", my thought was "well, that’s a statement of the obvious", for there is initially a deal of discussion about interaction and relationships between performers and audience and how different audiences react to mummers and how mummers adapt their performances to the space available. However, my reaction was that of one involved in the performance of plays and one who makes a point of watching others perform when opportunity arises. Presumably not everyone who will use this book will have that experience and so I concede the point: such things may indeed help the student of theatre and performance, or even social historians, where they may simply irritate mummers. However, once into the detail relating specifically to Pace Egg performers it gets exciting again, and my curiosity was especially aroused by discussion of women’s teams and the place of women in the tradition (pp.47-48) where the author states "The position of women in Lancashire Pace Egg teams remains substantially clear: it is not part of the tradition" and yet referring to a known and indeed pictured team of women Pace Eggers "The team had become part of the local cultural memory". I was left wondering whether, having dismissed the pagan ritual preconception, the author had succumbed to a men-only bias to his argument despite what appeared to be contrary evidence. And where did the lady in Stamford fit into all this, I wondered.

Possibly in one of the children’s street performances in Rochdale in the first half of the twentieth century which are compared to those based on scholarly texts promoted by schools leading to interesting insight into the pernicious influence of the latter on the former. A whole chapter, complimented by one of the appendices, is devoted to the influence of chapbooks; an influence already made clear, but which benefits from detailed examination.

Two chapters provide an overview of the activities, effects, and influences of revival teams since the 1960s, and the influences of individuals within that revival. Two detailed case studies of revival teams show how different the approach can be and how much individual cast members influence performances. They also demonstrate how teams have developed individual styles since the uniformity of the early revival. Particularly interesting is the author’s conclusion that the revival plays are just as "traditional" as those recorded years ago by collectors.

You may not agree entirely with Eddie Cass’s conclusions, though to this reviewer they are common-sense observations based on the evidence available. For anyone trying to explain the purpose of traditional drama in their own area to students, as I sometimes have to, it is truly useful to be able to be able to draw comparison with another area and so draw similar (or different!) conclusions.

Notes, appendices, a bibliography and index, which on their own would attract most people interested in mumming, support the whole text. The first appendix is a geographical index of plays in Lancashire consisting of Cawte, Helm and Peacock’s 1967 listing, updated to incorporate detail gleaned since the earlier publication and twenty-one completely new entries. The second appendix gives several texts in full, including the earliest Lancashire text based on oral tradition, a number of chapbook texts which were probably influential in the form and distribution of the play in Lancashire, and two local texts given in full to illustrate case studies.

I have but one criticism of this section: although available audio recordings are cited under geographical locations in the first appendix, it would have been useful to also bring this information together as a supplement to the bibliography.


E.C.Cawte, A.Helm & N.Peacock (1967) "English Ritual Drama: a geographical index"
London, Folk-Lore Society, 1967

Steve Tunnicliff

Folk Play Home Page   Traditional Drama Forum: Cumulative Contents

© Copyright 2002, The contributors & Traditional Drama Research Group. Webmaster: P.Millington (, Last updated on 14/04/2006