New mummers/guisers play celebrates Sidmouth Women heroes and the Fatberger!
A brand new traditional mummers/guisers play was released for Midsummer that celebrates Sidmouth Women across the ages. Local storyteller and writer, Janet Dowling (and President of The Morris Federation 1996-1999), has taken the tradition of mumming which occurs in midwinter and mainly by men, and developed it to one that occurs on mid summer and done only by women. It includes noted women of Sidmouth, plus a Dragon, a Saint, a Pick Axe Queen and the Fatberger, and with underlying themes of environment, tolerance and the usual life, death and rebirth.
“ Mumming is a very old tradition, dating from medieval times, and most of the plays that are still done date from the 19th century. They feature heroes like St George and Nelson with villains like the Turkish knight and dragons. Sidmouth is lucky that they have a mummers team who have a play from 200 years ago which they take out just before Christmas. I’m an avid supporter of them, but I also felt that women should have a go.”
“I took about 2 years to develop it but it wasn’t until the Fatburger raised its head that the final character fell into place! Originally we hoped to do it at Sidmouth Sea Fest, on the streets for Midsummer, and then at Sidmouth FolkWeek. We called ourselves Sidmouth Sisters Guisers (an alternative name for mummers) and started rehearsals in the beginning of March. Then we were into lock down. I thought it was never going to happen.”
“But I was inspired by the Mayday videos that were made by Morris teams videoing themselves individually on their phones and then stitching it together. So we practised on Zoom, and then each speech was recorded separately on our phones. Kyle Baker did his magic and stitched them in to one video. We are not the RSC – and there are several bloopers – but that’s all part of the fun! There are several motifs from the mummers play but most importantly the women heroes of Sidmouth are real and we feel it’s a real celebration!”
The Sidmouth Sisters Guisers are Linda Williams, Ruth Lewis, Ann Bishop, Alexa Baker, Barbara Murphy, Sheila Pratt, Sarah Reis and Liz Harris. Music was played by Brian Lewis. The video is edited by Kyle Baker.