Very early dramas were spread by word of mouth and the Mummers’ plays were no exception. Many performed today have only been preserved because local people made note of the words before the memories of the last performances faded away.
These plays were part of a seasonal activity or ritual performed, not only during the Winter months around Christmas, but also from Spring to Easter.
The plays often illustrated the rivalry between natural forces. ‘Duels’ between actors plating Summer and Winter and Life and Death are still performed at village crossroads, town squares, courtyards, bars and car-parks of inns as well as shopping malls. Their highly colourful costumes and outrageous antics delight the eye, but also display deeper meanings.
This strange collection of characters, who defy time and order, act out scenes which at first appear chaotic, but really reflect truths which transcend time.
“Llywelyn and The Lion” now revised, tries to re-create the spirit behind such dramas. The act of dying and the re-birth symbolize the mystical intervention of the Spirits of Nature and the ultimate regeneration of life.
The early history of the Morgan family told through various family members associated with Tredegar House and their rivals.
Henry IV of England
Owain Glyndwr of Wales
Llywelyn ao Morgan of Wales
The Lion of England
Sir Henry Morgan
There should be a minimum of twelve mummers for this play.
Enter a troupe of mummers, some with collecting boxes, others with small drums (toy drums if necessary), percussion instruments and humorous symbols of Wales.
Two mummers lay a large piece of coloured cloth on the floor in the middle of the acting area.
When Father Christmas appears, they stand to attention like boulders in a stone circle. Father Christmas walks around the circle as if inspecting slightly rebellious soldiers. When he ceases his inspection they move outwards to form a much larger circle.
Ladies and Gentlemen
As we perform our festive ritual,
Witness the actual, and the impossible.
(Sir Henry Morgan steps forward)
To help me in this noble venture
Sir Henry Morgan here, seeks your pleasure.
As a pirate, he sailed the even seas,
Now he’s Governor of the Caribbees.
Time passes, let’s begin our play
These silent friends have much to say.
(Father Christmas indicates Owain Glyndwr to step forward)
Prince Owain Glyndwr here, bravely stands
Favoured by the French, Scots and Ireland.
Wales rises up, independence the cause,
Parliament in Harlech now passes our laws.
(Llywelyn ap Morgan steps forward towards Glyndwr)
LLYWELYN AP MORGAN:
My Lord, I am Llwelyn of Tredegar,
I’ll fight the English Lion, for I am eager
To cut off his tail and dent his pride,
No-where in Wales will he want to invade.
(The Lion of England steps forward between Glyndwr and Llywwelyn)
LION OF ENGLAND:
So you are the nobles who seek my blood!
I’m ready to fight. Are you my Lord?
But if your boast is an empty sound,
You’ll never see ‘Prince Llywelyn’ crowned.
(Llywelyn and The Lion fight. The Lion falls on the central cloth, dying ‘ dramatically’…Glyndwr praises Llywelyn and returns to the circle.
(Sir Henry Morgan walks amongst the mummers and the audience)
Sir Henry Morgan:
I need a physician, is one here
To give our Leo a miracle cure?
(There is no response, so Sir Henry repeats the request even louder)
(A Doctor placed in the audience raises his hand. Sir Henry Morgan directs him to Father Christmas)
What cures do you carry?
(Doctor, as if advertising, gives samples (old fashioned sweets) to the audience)
Powders for all aches, pains and sneezes,
Spells and potions for all nasty diseases.
I treat the poor and those with wealth.
In fact, I’m cheaper than the National Health!
You charge a fee?
Fifty pounds is all I’ll take,
Less, and you would call me quack.
Curing lions should really be,
The province of a vet, not me.
(Goes to Lion)
Take a sip Leo, let is slither and slide,
Down your tongue, to your ‘roar’ inside.
Round and round and down the spout,
(To the audience)
In a few moments you’ll see some sport.
(The Lion and Llywelyn fight and The Lion is wounded, and again given treatment by the Doctor. After being chased out of the circle by Sir Henry Morgan, the Lion discreetly joins the circle of mummers. Llywelyn does not return immediately)
(Henry IV moves forward)
Here I stand, Henry the King,
These joyful rebels will never win.
I’ll fight Llywelyn, but before I do
Owain Glyndwr, the seeds you sow
Will wither. Once you lose your command,
Llywelyn from Tredegar will be banned.
Where is this king who banishes me
Far from the Ebbw and the Severn Sea?
(Llywelyn fights Henry, who is wounded. Father Christmas intervenes)
I’d never spare such a scheming Lord
Wales is my life, my land, my blood.
(Cheers from all the mummers)
(Henry is revived by the Doctor. Father Christmas indicates that they should leave. Jeers as they leave escorted by Sir Henry Morgan. More cheers for Llywelyn led by Glyndwr. Llywelyn inicates that he wishes to be heard – noise fades)
Who knows what the future will hold?
My land and manor, forfeit and sold?
Oh, lady wife, bring sanity as a guide
To doubts which swirl like the Severn tide.
(Llywelyn’s wife steps forward to comfort her husband, but brings with her Magical Gwen holding a glass ball or snow scene)
Despair not Brave Llywelyn,
Gentle husband do not mourn.
Our fortunes will be nurtured
By a Morgan named Sir John.
(Magical Gwen wanders among the crowd silently chanting and staring mystically into the glass ball)
A grander house, a palace
Will rise above these walls,
When noble seeds will flourish
In the rich black gold of Wales.
(More dramatic wandering)
Though changes be made by friend an foe,
This house and the Morgan reputation,
Sheltered from wars that ebb and flow,
Will be guarded by a new generation.
Trust me t’is true.
A mummer reveals his National Trust T-shirt and bows towards Llywelyn and his Wife who then lead the actors out of the circle leaving only Father Christmas and Sir Henry Morgan)
Alas, Ladies and Gentlemen
Our entertainment has ended.
Honour and Justice
Have been bravely defended.
Sir Henry Morgan: (A little threatening)
So please show
A worthy appreciation,
By giving generously
An honest donation.
To you all we bow
So as not to offend
All time will allow
Us to say is, THE END.
(As at their initial appearance, the mummers create a noisy, festive atmosphere and collect donations)