We’ve just come back from a remarkable dramatic occasion: the Winter Solstice Play performed by the Rendham Mummers. Rendham is a village just a few miles inland from Snape. At each solstice, winter and summer twice a year, the Mummers perform a new ‘play’ on one evening only.
Tonight’s was called ‘Death Stole the Sun’. It began at 7.30 pm so was performed in the dark which led to quite dramatic effects:
This photograph shows the ‘stage’, a grassy knoll about 15m across between a splendid tree, greenly under-lit, and three arcs of straw bales on which sat an enthusiastic, participatory audience of the ‘hiss-boo-and look behind you’ variety. To the left was a square red tent housing the 5-person band in which a drum, a recorder and a guitar were prominent. The violin seemed to be largely decorative. They may have played some Telemann and the like but I only recognised the James Bond tunes.
Between tree and tent was a curtain, used to dramatic effect when it fell away to reveal three ‘Essex girls’ called Tracy, Maisy and Daisy (I think). Right of the tree was a narrow ridge tent used for unmentionable goings on of an explicitly sexual nature. Centre front of the picture is the Master of Ceremonies with the script – one suspects the only copy – whose main job turned out to be not so much telling the audience what was about to happen as prompting the cast what to say and when. Behind him are various members of that cast including, to his right, the three ‘Essex girls.’
Those girls may not have featured in a genuine medieval mystery play but here the rest of the dramatis personae were drawn from that tradition. We had a splendidly acted pair of the Grim Reaper and Death; the latter turned out to be the missing son after he himself had been deaded by a cannon ball shot with an excellent flash and bang from a toy cannon:
The scaffolding tower behind Death’s left shoulder was necessary to provide the platform from which the Archangel Gabriel descended. This she did to great effect but far too early in the play, most of which she spent suspended rather awkwardly and inarticulate over the front of the band tent. This unfortunately put her slightly higher than the Earth Mother who, to signal clearly just how top she was meant to be, lounged nearby in an easy chair on top of a kitchen table.
Another prominent character was an oak tree alias the Green Man with flaming branches coming out of his head above a cloak of leaves falling to the ground:
Unfortunately, he was relieved of his manhood which in turn necessitated the ‘Essex Girls’ giving up their large bottle of Viagra to help achieve a miracle fertilisation which in the end proved unnecessary since Death was the missing son anyway. The plot did get somewhat tortuous and fragmented towards the end, but that didn’t matter since everybody was just waiting for it to finish so that they could process behind the cast with flaming torches down the hill to the pub: