creating community through celebration

Mumming In Marshfield - February 2008

“Nova, Nova!” – there is news and new content coming your way. First of all, I am eager to announce the theme of the 2008 Winter Solstice show, and also in this month’s newsletter, we are pleased to inaugurate what we plan to make an ongoing feature – a glimpse into the central elements of a Revels performance.

First the show: In 2008, we will be revisiting territory that we first explored in the 1995 King and the Fool script. The setting is a medieval castle where a King is entertained by his court, his troubador, and most significantly, by his court jester. As the Winter Solstice rolls ‘round, the spirit of darkness appears in the guise of the Black Knight whom the King must combat. The action of the show depicts the demise and eventual return of the King who, “Like Winter … must die, Then to life again like Spring!”.

The King and the Fool is particularly rich in motifs such as light vs. dark, the turning of the seasons and it echoes such mythology as the Holly King vs. the Ivy King, and even the Arthurian legends. As always, there will be music, ranging from inspiring chorales to hearty sing alongs, lovely costumes, and courtly dancing. Our wonderful childrens’ chorus will be a key ingredient, along with mumming, the Abbots Bromley dance, and performances by accomplished guest artists.

If you are familiar with the 1995 production, you will recall the grand sweep of the action and the hilarity of Geoff Hoyle in the role of the Fool. As you are familiar with California Revels, you will know that this new production will build on the best of the old while adding even more exciting material and heightened Reveling.

Extra, Extra! Read all about – The Paper Boys.

In virtually every Winter Revels, we present some sort of folk play, usually in the English “Mumming” tradition. Often this is some variation of the St. George and the Dragon “hero combat” tradition. The episodes in this play – the calling on, the challenge, the fight, the death of the hero, the comic attempts at revival by the doctor – are common to many of the numerous English mummers and Scottish “guisers” plays. We often add a sword dance and mystical revival by the Fool character. These latter two elements have come to typify the Revels mumming “tradition”, but in fact are fairly rare in the wider world of mumming.

We chose to open the 2007 Winter show with a reenactment of the “Marshfield Paper Boys” version of the mummers’ play. This may have struck some as a strange choice, and yet the tradition contains all of the usual elements of the hero combat play, but in a very condensed form. This compression of action, combined with the fantastical costumes (made of newspaper strips and designed to conceal the identity of the performer), emphasizes the myterious ritual quality of the play. Opposed to this is the offhand delivery and almost casual disregard of plot or motivated action. The result is a satisfying combination of high and low art – magic that is deep but held firmly in the hands of the common folk.

If you would like to learn more about the Marshfield Paper Boys tradition, Check them out. To learn more about mumming in general, click here. To read more traditional mumming scripts than any normal person ought to,see "Mastermummers"

- David Parr, Artistic Director