Conference date(s)
Saturday, 10 October, 1981

Traditional Drama 1981

  • A Newfoundland Mummers' Play

    John Widdowson


    Mumming at the Christmas season in Newfoundland is a tradition of very long standing. Two main types of house-visiting are the most common features. The first of these, the house-visit in which the game of guessing identities is played, has already been described fairly fully in H. Halpert and G.M. Story, Eds., Christmas Mumming in Newfoundland (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1969). The second house-visiting custom with all the performance of a play has hitherto received little attention.

    This paper traces the evolution of fieldwork and research into the mummers’ play tradition in Newfoundland during the 1960s. A number of field trips were made to various parts of the province in what turned out to be a game of detection which eventually located reports of plays and texts and fragments of texts from a number of widely scattered locations.

    The specific play text from the community of Tilting on the East coast island of Fogo will be presented together with some discussion of its context and variation as revealed by the few surviving individuals who remembered the performance.

    [Ron Shuttleworth Collection holds audio tape recording, with transcript - under interdict from John Widdowson.]

  • The Lesson on the Map: The Geography of the Scottish Folk Play, and its Implications for a Theory of Political and Cultural Origin

    Brian Hayward


    The Scottish folk play attracted little synoptic interested before Cawte, Helm and Peacock compiled their index for English Ritual Drama (1967). Using that publication as a starting-point, an attempt has been made, utilising oral and written sources, to expand the Scottish folk play gazetteer. The data gathered so far has been examined primarily on a geographical basis. Firstly it has been compared with the 1967 Index. Secondly it has ben examined as a possible reflection of the ethnography of the relevant area of Scotland from the time of the Roman Empire to the fourteenth century. This has been undertaken with a view to determine which, if any, of the ethnic influences in the country (which, after the "Romans', included the Welsh, the Scots, the Northumbrians, the Norse, the Danes and, with the feudalisation of Scotland, the Anglo-French and the Anglo-Flemish) could be construed as determinants for a theory or origin, in terms of both historical date and as an exponent of community interaction.

  • Keep Silence and Company: The Kippen Galoshins. (film)

    Tracey Heaton

  • Ritual and Vaudeville: The Dramaturgy of the English Folk Play

    Thomas Pettitt


    The dramaturgy of the English folk plays remains something of a neglected perspective. The ritualist approach concentrated on their central 'act', neglecting much of the action that characterizes them as a distinct species of dramatic performance. Recent scholarship has very properly returned to the plays themselves, but there is still a tendency for the dramaturgy to be neglected, say in favour of the texts of the plays or their social context and function. 'Traditional drama', surely must be characterized by a traditional dramaturgy, which includes verbal, physical and contextual aspects.

    By dramaturgy I mean the movements of the performers and their interaction – physical and verbal – with each other and with the audience, all this in relation to organized space. The distinct dramaturgical mode of the folk plays is formal, with performers moving on to, within and off the acting space in regular patterns, and presentational, characterized by much direct address to the audience and with little attempt at creating an autonomous dramatic world distinct from the social reality in which the performance takes place. This mode is appropriately designated 'ritual', although the designation implies nothing of course about origins. The mode is, however, fundamental to folk drama, as it characterizes not only the English plays but many continental types as well, such as the German sword dance plays and the Scandinavian plays of the Three Kings and the Star.

    An awareness of the characteristic dramaturgical mode of folk-play performance may facilitate the study of other problems, such as:

    1. Assessing the authenticity of problematical plays, e.g., the Revesby Sword Play is characterized throughout by highly traditional dramaturgy and is, therefore, unlikely to be a literary production.
    2. Determining the influence of traditional drama on other dramatic traditions, for example Fastnachtspiele, the Court Masque, or early professional drama (Doctor FaustusA Midsummer Night's Dream) – verbal echoes or parallels of motif are by themselves inadequate to determine the extent or direction of the borrowing.
    3. Detecting what may in historical terms be extraneous elements in the traditional drama, e.g., the Cure Scene of the English folk plays is marked by an essentially alien dramaturgy: complex rather than formal, representational rather than presentational, 'vaudeville', rather than ritual. It may not be a coincidence that a comic quack doctor routine figured in the repertoire of the medieval jongleurs, and may just be glimpsed among the turns of the Elizabethan stage clowns.
    Published paper title:
    Ritual and Vaudeville: The Dramaturgy of the English Folk Plays
    Thomas Pettitt Ritual and Vaudeville: The Dramaturgy of the English Folk Plays Traditional Drama Studies 1988, Vol.2, pp.45-68
    Also as a booklet by Odense University Press, Denmark. (1981) A5. 15pp.
  • That Damned Revesby Play: A Study in Contradictions

    Paul Smith


    Although some 200 years have passed since the first performance of what has become known as The Revesby Play and 168 years have lapsed since the existence of the British Museum copy was noted, very little is, in fact, known about this play. For example, whilst statements regarding the reasons for performance of the play have been made these have been based on evidence contained in secondhand accounts from the 19th and 20th century. In 1979 whilst researching an article to commemorate the so called anniversary of the performance of The Revesby Play a small manuscript book containing a version predating the British Museum manuscript was discovered. In order to establish the provenance of this earlier manuscript I started to investigate the massive collections of primary sources relating to the Banks family and their massive affairs. Whilst, as yet, I have only just explored the tip of the proverbial iceberg, a considerable quantity of relevant material has come to light. This paper then presents these findings and explores the contradictions they often contain.

  • Traditional Drama Research Group Forum

    Steve Roud

  • The Roumanian Calusari. (Film)

    Paul Smith