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The Meadows Mummers in Barga

performance of the Scottish folk play "Galoshins", updated for the 21st century.

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The Meadows Mummers used to be called, the world’s only all-female mumming troupe; but then discovered friends in Birmingham, so now they are saying they are the only all-female GALOSHINS troupe.

For anyone unfamiliar with the term «mumming», it refers to the practice of groups of amateur actors performing folk drama, frequently with a religious connotation, at specific and significant times of the year. The Mystery Plays (also Miracle Plays and Morality Plays, often termed interchangeably although they are different forms) come into this category. Mummers are, therefore, the performers.

The form is simple: the players enter a performance space, and perform a short play in which a hero is challenged by a villain, there is a short sword fight, the hero is killed, and a doctor is summoned to revive him. This achieved, the antagonists are reconciled, the players receive their reward, and the performance is over.

In 2013, a postgraduate from the University of Edinburgh, who had been researching a Scottish folk play, known as Galoshins, formed a mumming troupe to participate in saving the play from relative obscurity. This piece of intangible cultural heritage has now been performed at community events in tents, church halls, on a canal bridge, in a pub, and in a museum.

It has been feminised, updated, de‐militarised, and due respect is paid to the Commedia dell’Arte roots of the original by adding in broad physical clowning and contemporary political references.

With enormous pleasure, and some trepidation, I can now tell you that the Meadows Mummers performance in Barga (Tuscany) next month will feature the fabulous Christine Kydd as our narrator, and the equally fabulous ( but in a different way) Gary West as our eponymous hero. HOWEVER since we are an all-woman troupe, you will be seeing Professor West in a whole new light.

The dialogue is largely presented in traditional rhyming couplets, with usage of Scots restricted to those elements of the script where the action is clear enough that speech is an optional extra.

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