That rarest of things – a bona fide review of the Calverton Plough Play …
David Longford, of Catfoot Theatre Company based in Lambley, rather enjoyed our performance at The Woodlark on Saturday 15 January 2011. Thanks to him for the following very kind words, originally published on catfoot.co.uk.
‘The Plough Play is a traditional mumming play that took place on the first Monday after twelfth night (Plough Monday) and was an opportunity for the local plough boys to earn a bit extra by going round to the ‘big’ houses and offering some entertainment. Not only did it provide the lads with some extra pennies during the dark winter period, but it also signals and heralds in the New Year.
The Calverton Real Ale and Plough Play Preservation Society (CRAPPPS) have been perpetuating the tradition for around 30 years routinely visiting local pubs around Calverton over three consecutive nights and performing this short, daft and entertaining piece.
I first encountered it last year and enjoyed it enormously. It is unpretentious, basic, pure grassroots theatre. My enjoyment is aided enormously by sitting in the cosy confines of The Woodlark, with a roaring fire and Timothy Taylor’s Landlord on tap.
Please don’t ask me what the plot is. There are several characters, including two recruiting sergeants, Beelzebub, a couple of blokes in drag, one of whom dies and a quack doctor who brings her back to life. There’s a bit of music, song and lots of lovely wordplay and rhyme. Apparently it’s based on the traditional Calverton Plough Play text from way back when, but I’m guessing that the references to Viagra and Brazilians are fairly new additions.
It’s surreal and a bit incomprehensible, but just sit there, sup your pint and go with it. It’s performed with bravado and a complete disregard to theatrical convention or niceties. The bloke who played Beelzebub came in, said his lines and then instantly turned round and ordered himself a drink at the bar. Brilliant!
And yet in watching this quirky little piece you can see how all theatre, whether it’s simple stuff like this or some of the grander pieces, is all inter-connected. Men dressing up as women is not just limited to Panto and mumming can be dated back to Shakespeare’s time. Peter Quince, Bottom and the rest in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, with their crude and broad delivery are clearly a mummer’s troupe of sorts.
But this really isn’t an evening for criticism or scholarly review. Just enjoy the fun whilst you’re in your local boozer and then give them a couple of quid. All of the money they collect goes to the local NSPCC.
So they do their bit, have a quick beer and then on to the next pub. I stay for another pint (or two), grab my coat and torch and then head off home up a dark Catfoot Lane, feeling distinctly merry. Now that’s a good night out at the theatre.’