Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ring of mummer

Last night played host to the most memorable and enjoyable of evenings. Graeme Walker, artist, country and anarchic architect pulled together a bunch of lunatics to perform a mummers play for the unsuspecting (and frankly undeserving) Brighton public. For those who don’t know, a mummers play is an old folk tradition; a bawdy riot of a play performed at Christmas time in houses and pubs involving masks, silly costumes and horse buggery.

Adam C Thomas (of many aliases) and Danny K (non tea drinker) were also in town for this joyous event to get on board with the rhythm sections and with drinking duties.

I didn’t involve myself fully in the production by actually taking a character– instead, I jumped on board at the last minute, daubing some black paint on my face and dragging a guitar around to sing ridiculous drinking songs at the slightest suggestion.

When we joined the mummers, they were already half shit faced and chatting up the owners of the Rosehill Tavern off London Road.

Post pint and a jaunty bit of Johnny Cash, we uppedboots and tredged to the next venue. We cut a fierce silhouette; enormous army surplus blankets made into painted ponchos, with blacked-up faces and beautifully hand-made masks inspiring varying degrees of terror/hilarity. To the casual observer it may have looked like the Scouts doing a production of Batman. Fuck off though, it was much cooler than that.

We piled up outside our next pub – The Northern Tavern. As we drew close, it was clear that the pub was basically empty, save for the smokers outside and one table of staff and their mates. Our ‘head man’, the narrator (in this case a woman) went inside to remind the rather dilapidated room that we had booked ourselves for a brief spot of entertainment. They presumably didn’t seem that excited by the prospect of some hyped-up painted crazies making a racket in their tedious accident-insurance-commercial of a pub. We sacked it in favour of the excellent Caroline Of Brunswick, where Graeme’s unsuspecting brother was having birthday pints.

We were instructed to hold it outside and the short play was performed on Ditchling Road to an appreciative and rousing team, piled up on benches.

What the play was about, I can barely tell you. Having sat through numerous rehearsals and watched the thing twice, I managed to glean some ridiculous yarn about a bloke getting stabbed for some reason before a quack turns up to pull out the guy’s tooth, and a horse (brilliant horse’s head mask by the way – looked like a prop from The Godfather) gets a stick shoved up his arse. And the whole thing performed with gusto and great timing, before singing the charming words:

“Good masters, good missus, you listened to our play;

Remember us poor mummers a-plodding through the day.

The day it is so very long, the play so very draining;

Pray thrust your hands into your purse and yield your pence remaining!”

Cue grinning folks of Brighton, dragging anything from coppers to fivers into the tin can. As a money making venture it was probably quite profitable. Not, of course, as if that was the point. The money was entirely a means to a drunken end.

And boy was it a drunken end.

Following the celebratory pints in the Caroline, we hotfooted our asses to the Harveys Bar, some backstreet old mans joint, sparsely attended and quiet. We all bustled in, language and thrusting gestures and noise and woke the old codgers up a bit. Definitely a more enjoyable performance this one, for the fact that my ears were not battling with the sound of traffic and shouting youth chavs.

By this point Effie the Israelite and her Hebrew speaking friend, Amir, had joined us and thus proceeded to join us on the mighty slosh with Guinness and single malts. The songs flowed, the old folks glowed and by the end of the night, one old doorstop who had been rather sneery and cynical at our arrival announced that we had in fact restored his faith in youth. Youth? Well, that’s quite a misnomer. Collectively we aren’t even that young – but indeed it is apparent that there is still a decent flame glowing inside us. We haven’t entirely let the spirit of modernity glaze over our souls. Something pure, something silly, something surreal. And a load of booze. Hurrah for the spirit of youth!

Needless to say, the evening progressed with pats on backs, smeared face paint, gifts of rum from the landlord at Harveys (and indeed a Harvey's-branded free pocket diary for the coming year!), many cackles of hilarity and with a symphony of hugs and smiles. It was life at its celebratory best.

And today, slow, unclever and grey of face we dragged ourselves to Iydea for a surprisingly delicious vegetarian fry up, and a post mortem.

Here’s to next year’s play, where I definitely plan to play the horse.

Merry Christmas.x

One more time! "We went down down down in a burning ring of Mummer! It went mum mum mum and the mum mumming mummer. We went mum mum mum! A ring of mummer, a ring of mum! Woooooooooooooooooooooooo....."

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