The plays of Harborough Magna, Newbold on Avon, Bishop’s Tachbrook and Stoneleigh were originally performed by members of the village community in homes, halls, pubs or streets. Amongst the many ritual elements in the plays, the most common theme is death and rebirth. Over the years, the plays evolved to be unique to each village, although a common origin is evident.
Coventry Mummers are dedicated to maintaining these traditions, by performing each of these plays in their ’home’ villages, at Yuletide. The plays are performed with as little tampering as possible, preferably featuring local residents and sticking to collected costume details where known. They do not use scenery, sets, special lighting or amplification but feature colourful costumes, spectacular weapons and a fair helping of humour.
The villagers of Bishop’s Tachbrook created a play that for many years was lost but a copy was discovered in an American collection by Ron Shuttleworth (founder member of the Coventry Mummers),and was revived in the latter half of the last century.
An extract from
“Tachbrook When I Was a Boy “, by a Villager (Walter Commander?)
‘When the time came the Mummers would dress up in the most fantastic costumes, knock on the door of the house and ask “Would you like the Mummers?
When they came to our house they were invited in and got ready and one would come into the room where we all assembled and announce the play. If I remember rightly each actor would introduce himself with these words…”In Comes I”…One represented St. George of Merry England and another representing a black man would say ”In Comes I Black Marocadoc” (whoever that was) and after all were introduced the play would start.
What the plot or the words were I cannot remember (perhaps someone else may remember them). There was an incident when they were at home, one of them had a horse’s tooth in a large pair of tongs which he pushed in my face, saying “How about this, isn’t it a beauty?”.
They were of course regaled with wine, beer, mince pies and cake and made a collection.’
Nowadays, the play is generally performed at five venues, starting in Bishop’s Tachbrook and then moving to adjacent villages. In past years, the play has been performed at the school, the church, the pub, thy club and outside the homes of local residents. Coventry Mummers would welcome invitations to perform at such venues
Full details of this year’s performances can be found at www.coventrymummers.org.uk