The ancient tradition of a mummers’ play in Towersey dates back almost 40 years to when Steve Heap, bagman and foreman of the Morris Men, wrote a script that drew on a number of Northern plays.
The script is very good, containing all the classic elements and some wonderful lines - “Give me room to rhyme.” - but was altered every year to satirise topical characters and events. Later, the play was performed as written for several years, but then the great parliamentarian Sir Nicholas Scott took a hand. Whilst lying in the gutter one evening during the 1996 Tory party conference, Sir Nicholas met a constable, who offered him the hospitality of the station and wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Such a man might have been born for the mummers’ play.“In comes I, Shir Nicholash Shcott.” he said and measured his length on the floor. Apart from trying unsuccessfully to rise once or twice, he played no further part, but audiences loved him and the play has contained such topical characters as Michael Schumacher, Saddam Hussein, Sir Steve Redgrave, David Blunkett and Lord Nelson ever since.
In 2003 EFDSS invited Towersey to perform at their Festival of Carols and Customs. Despite the definitive collection of mummers’ play scripts in the Vaughan Williams Library, EFDSS wanted entertainment, not authenticity, so the Cecil Sharp House performances started and only came to an end due to the Side’s feeling that they were in danger of falling into a rut. Cecil Sharp himself appeared on his bicycle the first year and Brenda Godrich, who organises the Festival and John Kirkpatrick became the only two people to date to have watched themselves being portrayed in the play.
Like nearly all Towersey’s performances, the Mummers’ Play contributes to the Side’s two nominated charities, raising over £1,000 in the best years. Collecting from audiences is at the heart of the mumming tradition, and in its essence and its basic story line, despite all the topical, and sometimes pantomime elements, Towersey’s is very much a traditional mummers’ play.
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